Confidentiality when dealing with the customer: disclosure to agents, representatives and third parties: protecting deceased customers: general
Protecting the confidentiality of deceased customers: general
This section provides advice on the confidentiality issues you must take into account when dealing with a deceased person’s affairs. Please always remember the need to treat the deceased personal representative, family members and next of kin with sensitivity.
You should also be aware that the procedures HMRC follow are similar to those of banks, insurance companies etc, so the personal representative should be familiar with their responsibilities.
Period of administration of the estate
When someone dies, whether they have left a will or not, their estate enters a period of administration. During the period of administration the ‘personal representative’ is responsible for finalising the affairs of the estate. You may only disclose confidential information about the affairs of the deceased to a personal representative (or someone authorised by them), and only then to the extent necessary to enable the tax and National Insurance affairs of the deceased to be settled. In this guidance the term ‘personal representative’ is used to encompass both executors and administrators.
Dealing with the next of kin
It is not uncommon for people to confuse the personal representative with the next of kin. The deceased’s next of kin does not have any rights to information held by HMRC. However it is quite possible that the next of kin is also acting as the appointed personal representative. You therefore may need to make further enquires when dealing with requests from individuals who simply refer to themselves as next of kin to the deceased.
Dealing with the deceased’s (former) agent
Any agent’s authorisation that was signed by the deceased before they died ceases to be valid upon the date of death. This means no information may be given to a formally appointed agent unless and except where agreed by the personal representative. For more information about dealing with requests from agents please see IDG30410.
Dealing with the deceased’s personal representative
As a general rule, HMRC does not ask customers to send HMRC documentary evidence such as a copy of the will or letters of probate. It can however be useful to check whether we hold these documents are held because they will show whether the person you are dealing with can be treated as the personal representative
You should not however expect all customers to be able to supply proof that they have been appointed as personal representative as in many cases the deceased will not have left a will (that is, they will have died intestate). Furthermore as probate may not have been settled at the point at which the personal representative contacts HMRC, it is possible that letters of probate have not been validated or even not held.
Form R27 (repayments from the deceased’s estate)
You should check to see if the customer has completed a form R27 ‘potential repayment to the estate’, or a self assessment return or both on behalf of the estate. If these have been correctly completed HMRC will accept that the named signatory is legally entitled to the deceased’s information. See IDG30472 for further detail. It is only when there is no record of an R27 or SA return being submitted that documentary evidence (as noted above) becomes important.
If you are dealing with outstanding National Insurance matters and work in the National Insurance Contributions Office it may not be clear whether a R27 or tax return has or will be submitted. In such cases you should ensure that anyone asking for information has provided sufficient information (but not necessarily formal evidence) of their responsibilities. If you are unable to ascertain if the tax office have information about the personal representative and are dealing with National Insurance records you should consider issuing form CA8329.
Further details of how NICO & EO staff should deal with enquiries about deceased person’s estates is noted at IDG30470.
Dealing with a Senior Coroner
Please see guidance at IDG40561.
Details of NICO & EO Teams can be found at IDG80100. For further guidance and assistance please contact your Data Guardian.