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HMRC internal manual

Information Disclosure Guide

Sharing information outside HMRC: sharing information with courts, tribunals and HMRC appeals: court proceedings when HMRC has no direct involvement

HMRC staff are sometimes asked to provide information in connection with court proceedings for purposes other than the department’s functions. For example information held by us may be relevant to civil litigation between two former business partners.

When will this occur?

There are many examples of when this may occur. For example:

* a court may require HMRC information to corroborate information which HMRC has previously given to another Government Department, and will be used in evidence. (For example the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Trade and Industry often use information provided by HMRC when prosecuting.) 
* litigation between an agent and their present (or former) customer may require HMRC information 
* in corporate disputes the courts may ask HMRC to provide information to substantiate evidence provided by either of the parties.

Procedure to follow

HMRC may only provide information to a court when issued with a court order, subpoena or witness summons which is binding on the department. See IDG40540.

If the court requests information from us, but does not issue a court order, witness statement or subpoena which is binding on the department disclosure of HMRC confidential information is not permitted. In such circumstances an alternative would be for the party whose confidential information is being sought to give explicit consent to the disclosure, see IDG30210. It may often be in the customer’s interests to consent to disclosure if they are involved in the litigation.

Further guidance

If you are unsure of what type of request from the court you have been issued with, or would like further guidance contact your Data Guardian.