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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Customer contact and data security: telephone contact: sensitive call handling: disabled

HMRC is committed to providing a service to all taxpayers including those with disabilities. The Equality Act 2010 also requires organisations to enable all customers to have access to information.

You can make a personal contribution towards changing attitudes and behaviours towards disabled people by making sure you know about the services available - how to get them and how to use them.

We need to adopt the correct approach using our PDRS training and treat every customer with empathy and tact.

In all cases it is how the disability affects the customer’s ability to deal with their finances and other day-to-day activities that is relevant and not the fact that a disability may exist. Many people with a disability are able to able to manage their affairs perfectly well with the right help and support.

Talking to disabled customers over the telephone

You won’t always know if a customer has a disability unless they tell you (never ask).

Follow these guidelines for all customers:

  • speak clearly and directly into the mouthpiece or microphone
  • concentrate on the content, not the voice
  • always be ready to repeat, or re-phrase
  • give the person time to explain themselves fully - don’t interrupt
  • if you can’t understand, ask the person to repeat it
  • never pretend you’ve understood when you haven’t
  • if the person has a speech impediment / speaks slowly, don’t finish their words or guess the end of a sentence
  • if the person has a speech problem, do not assume you know why
  • where appropriate, ask closed questions (so the customer only has to say yes or no)

and finally, don’t be daunted by the rights and wrongs; if in doubt when dealing with disabled customers, rely on your own common sense and understanding. Whatever the situation, if you are not sure what to do, have confidence - and ask your customer how you can help.

Also see:

  • DMBM510430 - Customer contact and data security: Sensitive cases
  • DMBM513165 - Customer contact and data security: legislation and policy: Equality Act 2010


Some customers may prefer to handle their dealings in these circumstances with the department through an agent, representative or third party (including a voluntary organisation), and our normal guidance regarding authority and security should still be followed - see DMBM511600 about contact with third parties.

Where a customer is unable to directly deal with their own affairs they may decide to provide a third party with authority to act on their behalf. A power of attorney is a legal document whereby a person (the ‘donor’) gives another person (the ‘attorney’ or ‘donee’) this authority - see IDG30430 Disclosure when there is power of attorney.