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HMRC internal manual

Information Disclosure Guide

Sharing information outside of HMRC: disclosure for HMRC’s functions: general

The prohibition on disclosure of HMRC information (see IDG40100) does not apply to a disclosure which:

  • is made for the purposes of a function of HMRC - that is, to enable you to carry out your duties, and
  • does not contravene any restriction imposed by the Commissioners.

At present, no restriction has been imposed by the Commissioners.

What is a function of HMRC?

HMRC’s initial functions are set out in the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA) and include all revenue, national insurance and tax credit functions inherited from the former Inland Revenue as well as functions inherited from the former HM Customs & Excise. Some border functions are now shared with Border Force (BF) / UK Immigration Enforcement (UKIE) and guidance on disclosure to BF/UKIE is at IDG55100.

HMRC also has functions in areas such as child benefit, statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, adoption pay, national minimum wage, inland detection, import/export declaration systems and the collection and enforcement of taxes payable at the border (this is not an exhaustive list).

HMRC’s functions include employing our staff.

HMRC’s functions can be extended by legislation. An example of this is in the Finance Act 2008 which enabled HMRC to use the same powers as the police to investigate criminal offences where we have a function.

Details on HMRC’s functions is at IDG40470.

Activities that are ‘ancillary’ to the functions of HMRC, such as operating our IT systems and maintaining our estate, are also functions of HMRC.

Information may lawfully be disclosed for the purpose of an ancillary function if there is a sufficiently close connection between the purpose for which the disclosure is made and an HMRC function set out in legislation.

Activities that are not HMRC’s functions include activities undertaken by other government departments. To disclose this information lawfully, a statutory gateway (see IDG40320) should be used. It may also be possible to use the public interest disclosure gateway (IDG60000).

When can a disclosure be made for the purposes of HMRC’s functions?

The essential point to bear in mind when making a disclosure for the purposes of HMRC’s functions is that confidentiality should not prevent an HMRC officer from disclosing information they need to disclose in order to perform an HMRC duty or function.

When deciding whether or not to disclose information in order to perform a function or duty, you must consider each case on its merits. In particular, you need to:

  • for each disclosure, identify the specific HMRC function(s) whose purpose(s) will be served by the disclosure;
  • take appropriate account of relevant facts, in particular how the disclosure benefits HMRC’s functions and (where applicable) balance against any potential negative impacts on HMRC’s functions. If the negative ramifications of disclosure outweigh the positive impact, you should not disclose;
  • ignore irrelevant information, for example how the disclosure could benefit another government department;
  • disclose information only where there is an overall positive impact on HMRC’s functions and disclose only the minimum amount of information needed to achieve the specified purpose(s); and
  • in the case of information on identifiable living individuals, take account of the protection of personal data under the Data Protection Act (DPA), and for both identifiable individuals and legal entities (such as companies or charities), the right to privacy set out under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In general, you will be the person best placed to make judgements about whether and how to disclose information you hold for the purpose of an HMRC function, following the steps set out above.

If, having worked through these steps, you are still not sure whether you are able to make a disclosure for the purpose of an HMRC function, you must discuss with your line Manager and seek further guidance from your Data Guardian where necesary.