Confidentiality when dealing with the customer: disclosure to agents, representatives and third parties: general
When a customer’s representative may want information
Some customers may prefer to handle their dealings with HMRC through an agent, representative or third party. The following are examples of when a customer may wish to provide consent for us to disclose information about them to a third party:
- a customer may wish to deal with the department through their accountant or solicitor
- a person may contact the department regarding the affairs of their spouse or partner
- a customer may have a disability
- a customer may have learning difficulties
- a customer may be unable to speak or read English
- a customer may have approached their MP about an issue involving HMRC.
Ensuring information is shared lawfully
All disclosures of HMRC information must be lawful in accordance with the provisions of the CRCA. The ways in which information may be disclosed lawfully are outlined at IDG40300.
To be lawful, HMRC may only pass information to a customer’s representative with the explicit consent of that customer. You should read IDG30210 to ensure you are able to verify when the consent is valid.
Procedure to follow
Prior to disclosing you must read IDG30210 for guidance on how to correctly verify a customer’s consent (whether written or verbal). Other issues to consider when dealing with disclosure under such a consent are set out below.
Information which should not be disclosed
There may be some information that the customer may not want disclosed to their representative. This should be noted in the original written consent provided by the customer.
Length of time consent is valid for
Consent may be provided for a specific period or for a specific issue, or may be for continuous disclosure until the customer writes to cancel the consent. This should be noted in the original consent.
Disclosing to the representative over the telephone
We may do this in exceptional circumstances. Please see the section under ‘procedure to obtain consent’ in IDG30210.
Tax Credit Office disclosures to the Citizens Advice Bureau
Please note the Tax Credit Office (TCO) have a special arrangement in place for tax credit related enquiries from Citizen Advice Bureaux (CAB).
Consent is not available but you wish to disclose to the customer’s representative
In some situations, the customer will be unable to provide specific written consent which would allow you to disclose information to their representative, for example due to illness. In these infrequent circumstances, their representative must provide a legal document known as a Power of Attorney, see IDG30430
If a customer has asked their MP, or a Minister, to help them resolve a difficulty then the MP or Minister will be acting as representative of the customer but will not have explicit consent to disclose. See IDG30440 for information about how to proceed in these circumstances.
If you are in any doubt or require any further guidance contact your Data Guardian.