Information disclosure Gateways with other government departments: Treasury Solicitor and bona vacantia
Bona vacantia is the Latin term of ‘ownerless goods’. It includes property and rights that have no owner such as estates of persons who die intestate (with no entitled relatives) and assets of dissolved companies. By law, bona vacantia goes to the Crown via the appropriate recipient body.
The role of the Treasury Solicitor
The Treasury Solicitor’s Department provides legal services to over 180 central government departments and other publicly funded bodies in England and Wales, and collects bona vacantia on behalf of the Crown.
The Treasury Solicitor does not deal with bona vacantia in the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster, Northern Ireland or Scotland. Please see theBona Vacantia Guidance for details.
Requests in pursuance of court orders or request made by a foreign court
The Civil Procedure Rules Part 34 (Practice Direction 34 paragraph 11.1) provide that where a designated court receives a request from a court in another EU Member State to take evidence for use in civil proceedings in that other member state, the designated court shall send the request to the Treasury Solicitor
The Treasury Solicitor will then make a request to HMRC for the disclosure of information. However, HMRC is obliged not to disclose any information because orders issued by an overseas court are not binding on the Crown. This means that any order issued by a foreign court cannot be complied with unless it is first ratified by a UK court.
If Treasury Solicitor wishes to pursue the matter beyond its first informal request they must therefore obtain a new court order issued by a UK court
See IDG40530 for further information about court orders.
Bona Vacantia Division - dissolved companies
Once a company has been dissolved, its directors no longer have any say in how their former company is run and assets that may remain in the company can sometimes be held in bona vacantia. However because no one is legally responsible for the running of the company no one is able to provide their necessary consent to disclose information still held by HMRC. For this reason HMRC cannot normally disclose any information about a dissolved company to the Treasury Solicitor, unless there would be a direct benefit to HMRC’s functions from doing so. Further guidance on disclosures for HMRC’s functions can be found at IDG40400.
Bona Vacantia Division - estates of deceased persons
HMRC may only disclose information about a deceased person with the consent of the personal representative. Details of these arrangements is given in IDG30470. Even in cases where Treasury Solicitor merely wishes HMRC to confirm the identity of the personal representative, HMRC is legally obliged not to disclose any information.