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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Customer contact and data security: contact with third parties: what is a third party? - authorised and non-authorised.

A third party is anyone who wishes to speak on behalf of the customer about their tax affairs. For Debt Management there are two types of third parties; authorised and non-authorised.

Authorised third parties

Authorised third parties are people who have been given authority from the customer to speak about their tax affairs. The authority can be verbal or written.

Written authority

Usually the customer will give authority for us to speak to a nominated third party by writing in to us. The letter should be signed by the customer and should also give any limitations on what we can and can’t disclose to the third party. You should record receipt of such a letter on the permanent notes facility on IDMS stating:

  • who the letter is from
  • who the authority is for and their relationship with the customer
  • the date the letter was received
  • the head of duty which is covered by this authority
  • any limitations on what we can discuss or any time limits.

If the authority relates to more than one head of duty, IDMS Notes and Assets should be updated for each head of duty stated in the letter of authority.

If the third party is an accountant or agent the written authority will usually be obtained through a 64-8 which will be noted on the record.

For further guidance on authority in writing, see DMBM511210.

Verbal authority

Debt Management have the ability to accept verbal consent for a one off telephone conversation with a third party in any of its offices.

The customer must have firstly:

  • passed all verification checks
  • told us who the authority is for
  • their relationship with that person
  • any time limits or limitations on what we can discuss.

You should always advise the customer that if they would like to make this a more permanent arrangement then they should send us a signed letter giving the authority covering the above list under written authority.

Field Force Agents are permitted to take verbal authority whilst out on call, but must firstly have verified the customer in the normal way and make a note of who they spoke to and that verbal consent was taken.

Advanced verbal authority

The third party will often be with the customer at the time of the call, but we can also allow advance verbal authority for:

  • a one-off call
  • valid for up to four months.

If you take a call requesting advanced verbal authority you should note:

  • this on the permanent notes clearly detailing all of the above under verbal authority
  • the expiry date.

You should advise the third party that when they call back they should say that they have been given verbal consent in advance and you must always check the record for this prior to any discussion.

Same-day call

If you have taken verbal authority from the customer to speak to a third earlier in the day and the third party needs to call back on the same day (or reasonably within a 24-hour period) because they need to provide further information then it is good customer service to allow this and therefore it is permissible to speak to the third party on the second call without getting the authority from the customer again. Although technically this is two conversations with the third party as it is to complete the first call it is okay to do this, anything beyond this should not be allowed and you should advise the customer to write in giving consent.

Non-authorised third parties

A non-authorised third party is a third party who requests that we discuss the tax affairs of the customer without prior to consent from the customer.

Normally when you are faced with this situation you should not discuss the tax affairs with the third party and instead explain that you need the customer to call in and give verbal consent or send us a written signed letter giving consent for us to discuss their tax affairs with a nominated third party. There are few exceptions to this rule and this is when:

  • the third party is wanting to set up a TTP, see DMBM511645.
  • the third party wants to make payment, see DMBM511645
  • the third party wants to give new designatory details DMBM512150.
  • you are dealing with a third party in special circumstances such as:

    • when the customer is very elderly, deaf or infirm, see DMBM510500 or
    • the customer is deceased and it is prior to having personal representative written authority, see DMBM510450.

To reduce the number of unnecessary calls and paperwork to HMRC, where a third party with no authority has asked for information to be issued (for example, duplicate returns or letters, statements, copies of forms), this should be sent directly to the customer and not the third party. The third party can also check the progress of existing queries on the customer’s behalf (for example, you can confirm receipt of a correspondence and if a response has been sent but you cannot disclose the content) or how long it will take for a query to be dealt with.

If you are in any doubt as to whether you should disclose information, you should always ask the caller to write in, see DMBM510230. Alternatively, write to the customer yourself and refuse to discuss anything over the phone or face-to-face with the non-authorised third party(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) IDG30447.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) DMBM510280(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)