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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Information Powers: TMA70/S19A, TMA70/SCH1A/PARA 6 and FA98/SCH18/PARA 27: Professionals

The medical and legal professions have a duty of confidentiality to their patients and clients and may advance confidentiality as a reason for not providing information.

HMRC’s view is that S19A overrides the duty of confidentiality. This view was accepted by the Special Commissioners in Guyer v Walton, an appeal by a solicitor (SPC 274/01).

Mixed financial and medical records are often kept by dentists and doctors despite advice from their professional bodies to keep them separate. It is accepted that TMA70/S20 cannot be used to obtain medical records (EM10205). However S19A is directed towards the liability of the doctor or dentist as taxpayers and HMRC’s view is again that S19A overrides professional confidentiality. Nevertheless caution should be exercised and information about patients should not be used to initiate or/ in enquiries into the patients’ tax affairs.

The tax case ex-parte Taylor (62TC 578) which concerns a Section 20(2) Board’s notice and legal professional privilege may assist in explaining HMRC’s approach.