Confidentiality when dealing with the customer: disclosure to agents, representatives and third parties: protecting deceased customers: verifying the identity of personal representatives
Verifying the identity of personal representatives
Where necessary, the deceased’s personal representative is responsible for completing form R27 ‘potential repayment to the estate’, filing a tax return for the estate to the date of death and for paying any outstanding tax and National Insurance liabilities. To fulfil these responsibilities, the personal representative may contact HMRC seeking information about the deceased’s affairs. As noted in IDG30471 any information held in relation to a deceased person’s affairs remains confidential and may only be disclosed with the consent of the personal representative and where it will enable the tax affairs of the deceased to be settled.
You must ensure that the person making the enquiry is the personal representative before making any disclosure. Bear in mind that the customer may not be familiar with the formal, legal processes discussed here and take care to avoid asking a customer to provide evidence or information he may have already produced to another line of business in HMRC. Check what you should do in your line of business.
Procedure to follow
Lines of business should take a consistent approach when dealing with the personal representative, in order that the deceased’s tax affairs can be settled. This may include payment of outstanding HMRC debts or claims to repayments of tax due to the estate.
- Check whether HMRC has received a form R27 ‘potential repayment to the estate’ form. This is a form which is filled in by the personal representative. If the person making the enquiry into the deceased’s affairs is the person who signed the R27, then that person should be treated as the personal representative and you may provide them with relevant information.
- If there is no record of receiving a form R27, check whether HMRC has received a Self Assessment return completed for the deceased’s estate to the date of death. The Self Assessment return may only be completed by the deceased’s personal representative. If the person making the enquiry into the deceased’s affairs is the person who signed the return, then that person should be accepted as the personal representative and you may provide them with relevant information.
- If HMRC does not hold the R27 you will need to ask the enquirer to provide evidence to prove that they are the personal representative of the deceased. This will then permit you to disclose information about the deceased to that person. Details of the officially recognised documentation is noted below.
You may receive a request from the personal representative for National Insurance or VAT information. You should seek advice from your line manager or data Guardian if you are unclear on how to proceed.
Dealing with documentary evidence in connection with deceased taxpayers
There will be times when you need to ask for evidence of the personal representative’s bona fides. Typically this can be where no R27 or SA return has been completed or where there is contradictory evidence regarding the personal representative’s identity.
The deceased left a will naming an executor
If there is a will the personal representative (the executor) obtains from the Court:
- a Letter of Administration, or
- a grant of Probate, or
- in Scotland, Confirmation.
Although you may have good reason to request documentary evidence, please note that in many (the majority) of cases executors will have responsibility for ‘small’ , low valued estates. As such they may have no need to seek grant of probate. And that it is also possible that a will has been made but no one named as executor, or that the executor has already died or that an executor chooses not to administer the estate.
If the deceased made no will
If the deceased person did not leave a will (this is called ‘intestate’) the personal representative) may need to apply to the court of probate so that they can then be formally appointed as administrator for the estate. This is achieved by either obtaining:
- a Letter of Administration, or
- in Scotland, Confirmation.
It is often the case that the personal representative will not need to obtain probate and as such you should not be overly concerned when a personal representative informs you that they do not hold or will not be requesting a letter of administration (of confirmation).
Dealing with cases where documentary evidence is unavailable
As previously noted, there will be times when grant of probate is neither required nor pending, this can be whether or not a will was made. In particular, where the total value of the assets in the estate is less than £5,000, probate will not normally be required. HMRC does not insist that the personal representative applies for probate and it is for this reason that HMRC will prefer to reply on a personal representative providing a formal declaration on form R27, SA return or both.
Dealing with personal representatives who are unable to provide documentary evidence
Guidance on the process of checking the validity of an information request unsupported by formal documentary evidence is given at IDG30473.
Where there are two or more personal representatives
Sometimes two or more executors may be appointed by a will, or multiple administrators appointed by the Courts. This means that there can be two or more personal representatives.
You should proceed as above. However, you must be careful to check the Letters of Administration to ensure all personal representatives have the same powers in relation to the estate. For example, it may be that personal representatives are appointed where the deceased held assets in more than one country and different personal representatives are empowered to deal only with the assets located in a particular country. In such cases information relating to assets situated in a particular country must not be disclosed to the wrong personal representative.
Special personal representative
A variation of the situation where there are two or more personal representatives is when a Special personal representative is appointed under the provisions of the Settled Land Act 1925. This Special personal representative is in addition to the ordinary personal representative and will only deal with issues relating to settled land and no other aspects of the estate. You must therefore only disclose information to the Special personal representative in relation to the settled land.
Details of NICO & EO Teams can be found at IDG80100. For further guidance and assistance please contact your Data Guardian.