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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: how to handle calls from third parties: call from relative/friend - customer present

If you take a call from a relative or friend who is with the customer at the time of the call and who wishes to speak on behalf of the customer, you can allow this provided you first speak to the customer.

Confirming verbal authority when the customer is present

You should:

  • ask the customer the appropriate verification checks (see DMBM512800)
  • ask for the name of the third party and the relationship to the customer (make a note of this information)
  • confirm with the customer that they are willing to give verbal authority for us to discuss their tax affairs with the chosen third party and check if there are any restrictions on what we can and cannot discuss.

Note: Customers who want us to deal with third parties in this way will need to provide verbal consent each time they call with a third party present.

You are allowed to deal with friends and family members (third parties) of our customers no matter how many times they call whilst the customer is present.

If the customer wants the third party to act on their behalf on a regular basis without providing advance verbal consent, advise them that they must send a signed written letter to HMRC (see DMBM512210).

Security process and contact history notes

If you have any concerns about the caller’s response to the questions or you feel the customer is being coerced by the third party, escalate the call to your team leader.

You should always be vigilant against bogus callers and follow the bogus caller escalation route if necessary, see DMBM510280.

To enable our Compliance colleagues to monitor usage of the third party service and combat fraud, the history note is required in a particular format to enable them to search for this type of call. It must show ‘3rd party verbal consent’ - not the word ‘third’.

Third party needs to call back with more information

If for whatever reason the third party needs to go away and find more information to discuss the customer’s tax affairs further but the customer is unable to be present at the return call, for example, you are either asked to:

  • call them back or
  • wait for them to phone in again within 24 hours

it is good customer service to allow this call.

It is therefore permissible to take the earlier verbal authority as consent to talk to them and continue the second call with the third party without going through the full verification checks again (you should check the reference number and one other verification check), or having a need to speak to the customer first. For verification and disclosure purposes this is still classed as the same call, however anything beyond this must be either dealt with by the customer themselves, need further verbal consent or would need to be put in writing.