Confidentiality when dealing with the customer: disclosure to agents, representatives and third parties: working with MPs
Customers sometimes write to their MPs/MEPs (whether elected at Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast or Brussels) raising issues about their tax affairs or other dealings with HMRC.
As a general rule you must not disclose customer information to a third party without the specific written consent of the customer (see IDG30210). An exception to this rule is when you reply to correspondence from MPs/MEPs.
A customer may ask their elected representative (whether MP, AM etc.) for help when they have been unable to satisfactorily sort out a problem with HMRC. If an MP writes on behalf of their constituent you can assume that by involving their MP the customer has, by implication, given consent for you to disclose confidential information that concerns the enquiry when you reply to the MP. This is called implied consent. However, you need to be careful when disclosing information based on implied consent as it will rarely be necessary to disclose all the information we have about a customer.
When disclosing information based on implied consent you can reasonably assume the customer has consented to you disclosing information about the specific enquiry but you cannot also assume that they have consented to you disclosing information that does not concern the enquiry made.
You must bear in mind that the customer’s implied consent does not give you authority to disclose to the MP information about other members of the constituent’s family. Members of the family must be treated as individual customers in their own right. You must have their separate written consent before disclosing any information applicable to them.
When responding to an MP, you can accept the implied consent of the customer to disclose information about another person only if the other person:
- is deceased and the customer is their personal representative (see also IDG30471),
- has given specific written consent for the customer to act on their behalf (see IDG30210), or,
- is incapable of managing their own affairs and a power of attorney has been granted to the customer (see IDG30430).
However, if it is clear that, for example, a husband and wife have jointly approached an MP about an issue common to them both, you can reasonably assume that they both have given implied consent for you to disclose information to the MP about their individual tax affairs.
Telephone enquiries received from MPs
MPs will occasionally telephone to make enquiries on behalf of their constituent. Historically this has tended to be mainly in connection with claims for tax credits but the following guidance applies equally to all parts of HMRC (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
Where an MP telephones for information regarding a constituent they should:
- be advised that HMRC cannot legally disclose any information about a customer without evidence of that customer’s express consent, and
requested to write, on their headed notepaper, to the office stating:
- the name and address of their constituent, and
- the matter that they wish to discuss.
On receipt of the letter you can assume that the customer has, by implication, given consent for you to disclose relevant details to the MP.
Child Benefit Office
(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) IDG80100(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
Please contact your Data Guardian.