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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Operational Guidance

Our Conduct and Behaviour: customer service to disabled people: how to help: introduction

If a person has any disability covered by the Equality Act 2010, you must make any reasonable adjustments they request to ensure they are not treated less favourably than any other person, because they are disabled.

Treat disabled people with the same courtesy as you would anyone else and be attentive, encouraging and patient, but not patronising. And, during the course of any communication

  • remember slowness or impaired speech does not reflect a person’s intelligence
  • refrain from correcting or speaking for the person. Wait quietly while the person speaks and resist the temptation to finish sentences for them
  • if you need more information, break down your questions to deal with individual points that require short answers
  • if you do not understand what someone has said, ask the person to say it again. Never pretend to understand when you do not.

Ask whether the person would like to be represented

Where a person mentions a physical or mental impairment you must ask them whether they would like to be represented by an agent, family member, friend or, if on a low income, to seek assistance from a charity such as TaxAid. Representation by an agent is covered in the guidance at CH201500.

If they have Served in the Armed Forces - For free help and advice they can contact:

Veterans UK helpline - 0808 191 4218

Royal British Legion helpline - 0808 802 8080

Army Benevolent Fund - 020 7901 8900

SSAFA - 0845 241 7141

All of the above offer dedicated welfare support for veterans, their families and dependants either by telephone or via a home visit.

Further information is available on the internet on how to deal with HM Revenue & Customs for someone else.

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Third party supports the person but is not their tax adviser

A person with a physical or mental impairment may indicate that, although they do not want to be represented, they wish a third party to provide emotional support or assist them in their communications with you during the course of the compliance check or in a meeting. The third party may not be appointed to deal with their tax affairs but will be privy to personal and confidential information.

The third party may be

  • a friend, relative or carer
  • from a voluntary organisation
  • any of the health sector or social care professionals
  • a support worker.

The guidance at IDG30210 specifies that you should obtain written consent during interviews, but you do not need to ask the person for written consent if you think it will cause further stress. You must check whether the person has freely given their consent to the third party being present and only continue with the meeting if you are satisfied that they have done so.

Record in your notes of meeting or notebook

  • the name of the third party
  • the fact that their presence was there to aid communication or support the person and was not acting as an agent, and
  • that the person had freely given their consent to the third party’s presence.

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When you are contacted by a third party by phone

In some circumstances you may be contacted directly by a third party where the person with the impairment cannot contact you themselves.

If the person contacting you does not have the taxpayer’s consent to disclose information then you cannot use the phone call to carry out any compliance checks. However, you can ask what adjustments you need to make and explain the need for written consent if the person is acting on their behalf.

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Who can make decisions when the person does not have the mental capacity?

In rare cases the third party may explain that even if reasonable adjustments are made the person would still be unable to deal with their tax affairs. In these circumstances you must not disclose any information to the third party unless they can provide one of the following documents:

  • a document granting Power of Attorney which authorises them to deal with the person’s property and financial affairs
  • an order of the Court of Protection appointing the named individual to either deal specifically with the person’s tax affairs or their financial affairs in general.

You will not be able to disclose information to anyone previously appointed by the customer under the 64-8 or COMP 1 procedure unless they have any of the above documents or have been appointed by a person with the authority to deal with the customer’s property and financial affairs.

See IDG30431 for further information regarding powers of attorney and incapacitated individuals.