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HMRC internal manual

Information Disclosure Guide

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Sharing information outside HMRC: sharing information with courts, tribunals and HMRC appeals: introduction

Court orders, witness summonses and subpoenas are all formal demands for information from law courts. This section provides an introduction to explain:

  • when you will be required to disclose information to a court
  • how the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA) allows you to disclose lawfully confidential information to the courts
  • the procedure you should follow
  • when it is not possible to provide information to the courts.

Further information about the different types of orders is given later in this chapter.

In addition to court orders, the courts, court services, solicitors and other individuals involved in litigation may make more informal approaches for information. The general rule is that HMRC is not permitted to disclose information in such cases. See IDG40570 for details of how to respond to such requests. It is vital that if you receive a request from a court for information that you give it the highest priority to ensure it gets dealt with in good time.

Therefore you should:

  • take responsibility at the earliest stage to ensure that the request is dealt with, even if you are not the ‘specialist’ in the area or your office is not responsible for the customer’s records
  • familiarise yourself with the nature of the order or request you have received and inform your manager that a request from a court has been received
  • follow the guidance at IDG40530 to check whether a court order enables you to lawfully disclose the requested information
  • follow the guidance at IDG40570 for advice on how to respond to an informal request for information
  • treat the request as a high priority throughout.

You should not provide a court with confidential information unless you are satisfied that you have lawful authority to disclose.

Please note that the guidance given in this section excludes witness statements. Guidance on witness statements can be found at IDG40220.


Who is permitted to provide the courts with information

Provided that the court has made the necessary order against HMRC, then any established and permanent member of HMRC staff can be authorised to disclose information. You must ensure that the matter is dealt with quickly and that your manager is kept fully informed.

If, after reading this guidance and discussing the matter with your manager, you are still unclear whether information should be provided to a court, you should contact your Data Guardian for further advice.

Child Benefit Office

If you work in the Child Benefit Office (CBO) all court related matters are dealt with by the CBO Customer Relations Unit.

If you work in the CBO and receive a formal request from a court, you should pass all correspondence sent by the court to this unit. Please see IDG80100 for contact details.

Devolved administrations

This section applies to the courts throughout the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland but there are differences in how courts in Scotland and Northern Ireland function.