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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Conditions and safeguards: Human Rights Act: Article 8

Article 8(1) gives everybody (including companies) the right to respect for

  • their private and family lives
  • their home, and
  • their correspondence.

This is sometimes called a “right to privacy”.

The European Court of Human Rights has said that ‘private information’ should be interpreted broadly [Amann v Switzerland (16/2/2000) ECHR 27798/95]. It includes not only information about a person’s private or family life or personal relationships but also activities of a professional or business nature.

For example

Information about the way that a business is operated should be treated as private information for Article 8 purposes.

However, Article 8(2) specifically envisages that there will be some circumstances when it is necessary to interfere with a person’s rights of privacy. It sets out the conditions that must apply before such an intrusion is lawful.

To be lawful, an intrusion into a person’s private life must be

  • in accordance with law
  • necessary in a democratic society, and
  • in pursuit of a legitimate aim.

For HMRC this usually means that any intrusive action must be in accordance with the law and necessary for the economic well being of the UK.

In order to be necessary the proposed action must be reasonable and proportionate to the underlying need, see CH21360.

For example

You can require information about the way a business is operated if

  • the need for the information is lawful, and
  • the action you propose is reasonable and proportionate in light of that underlying need.

You can find the full text of Article 8 on the HRA intranet site.