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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Customer contact and data security: contact with third parties: agents and accountants: who is an agent or accountant?

Agent

An agent is a collective term used for an authorised third party acting on behalf of a customer. Though usually applied to a professional advisor, in particular accountants, agents can also be book keepers, relatives, friends and so on. It is anyone who has written authority - be it in a 64-8 or in a signed letter - to act on behalf of the customer and deal with all their tax affairs or part of.

Although they deal with the tax affairs of the customer when it comes to enforcement action the liability always remains with the customer.

Accountants

Most of the time the customers ‘agent’ will be an accountant or accountancy professional who job it is to deal with and manage the tax affairs of the customer. They will be authorised to deal with the customers tax affairs by means of a 64-8.

You will see throughout all guidance the terms ‘agent’ or ‘accountant’ used a lot but essentially they have the same meaning in that they are a third party with authorisation to speak about a customers tax affairs.

Although they deal with the tax affairs of the customer when it comes to enforcement action the liability always remains with the customer.

Contacting the customer

Whenever you deal with an agent you should always check the record for authority prior to disclosing any information.

When making an outbound call it will depend on the type of call you are making as to whether you should contact the agent or the customer first. However if we have previously made a call to the agent in regards to an outstanding return and the return remains outstanding, then you should contact the customer directly who will need to liaise with their agent themselves.

However if you have an outstanding debt and you are at the point of enforcing that debt then the customer remains liable and you would contact the customer directly.

In Debt Management you should make a judgement on each case as to whether you contact the agent or customer directly.

Things to note about agent/accountant authority

Even if the notes say we have previously dealt with this agent and discussed the record with them, unless you can find authority or receive proof of that authority, then you should not discuss the record with them. Previous notes are not enough evidence because it could be that the customer has since withdrawn the authority and therefore each time an agent contacts you they must be verified.

If an agent or other person was acting on behalf of a deceased customer prior to their death, for example through a power of attorney or consent (such as a form 64-8) you may no longer disclose confidential information to these third parties. If the personal representatives wish these third parties to continue to act they must provide a fresh consent. For guidance on third party deceased cases, see DMBM510450.