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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Information Powers: TMA70/S20: Documents from Persons Other than the Taxpayer


Social Security Administration Act 1992/S110ZA

An authorised officer may, for the purpose of enquiry into the tax or NIC liability of any person (the taxpayer), require certain other persons EM10120 to deliver or make available, EM10115 for inspection documents which are in their possession or power and which, in the authorised officer’s reasonable opinion, contain or may contain information relevant to any Income Tax, NIC, Corporation Tax or Capital Gains Tax liability to which the taxpayer is or may be or may have been, subject, or to the amount of any such liability.

There are no powers to call for particulars under Section 20(3).

Guidance on interpreting Section 20(3) can be found at EM10201 (documents) and EM10202 (power or possession).

It should be normal practice to ask the taxpayer, where practicable, to obtain the information directly from the third party. If that is unsuccessful only then should an approach direct to the third party be considered. There may, however, be exceptions to this rule. For example, where it is clear from the outset that the taxpayer cannot or is unlikely to produce the information, or there is a risk of collusion.

Where the third party is a Large Business, HMRC may have allocated to it a Client Relationship Manager. The third party may contact them rather than you should they receive an approach from you for information. In order to prepare the CRM for any such contact, you should tell the CRM of your intentions before you write to or contact the third party. There will be no need for such action where you intend to approach a bank only for documents covered by EM10129.

Informal requests to third parties may produce the required information. If they do not, authorised officer should not seek the consent of a Commissioner for the issue of a formal notice under Section 20(3) unless the required information cannot be obtained in any other way. Third parties under a contractual duty of confidentiality cannot be expected to comply with anything short of a formal notice.

Notices issued to third parties must ask only for documents which are or may be relevant to the tax liability of a particular named taxpayer. (See EM10104 if the taxpayer or taxpayers’ names are not known).

There are a number of specific exclusions EM10106 and EM10151 and time limits EM10119.