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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Information powers: TMA70/S20: information from spouses, civil partners or domestic partners

Spouses, civil partner or domestic partners of taxpayers under enquiry may be prepared to supply voluntarily the information which you need about assets and spending.

Whenever private side information is required you should consider the person’s rights of privacy under Article 8 HRA. When private documents are sought from a spouse or partner you must also consider their rights. Such cases are particularly sensitive and you should review the position along the lines of EM10112.

In all cases you should record that you have considered this issue.

In smaller cases it may be sufficient to ask the taxpayer to make a statement of gifts and loans to or from their spouse or partner. Regulation 10 or Section 20(1) could be used to obtain such a statement. Whether or not you can trust such a statement will depend upon your assessment of the risks and what you already know about the case. You should make the taxpayer aware that you can verify the statement by approaching their spouse or partner (although usually it would not be necessary to do so).

If the private side is material, the information you will want from the spouse or partner is

  • details of income and gains both taxable and non-taxable.
  • details of assets.
  • information about spending.

The purpose will be to see whether the spouse or partner has been receiving money from your taxpayer, to calculate how pooled resources are spent or to verify claims that the partner has made payments to your taxpayer or into joint accounts.

Always address your enquiries to the spouse or partner. Never ask the taxpayer for such details - they are confidential to the third party. If they wish to provide them through the taxpayer or the accountant acting, that is their decision.

You will be able to infer something (but not necessarily everything) about the spouse’s or partner’s assets from what you know of joint assets and your taxpayer’s contribution to them.

If the spouse or partner is also a partner in the business under enquiry your position is much stronger even if duties are nominal. You must still respect confidentiality - each party has a right to discuss their personal affairs separately. However, any request for information can be made in the knowledge that you can call on the full range of powers to support it.

Where the spouse or partner is not under enquiry, you do not have a statutory power to enforce a request for a statement of assets and liabilities. A TMA70/Section 20(1) notice for particulars could be sent to the spouse, or partner only if the statement of assets and liabilities is relevant to their liability.