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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

Communications: Incoming telephone calls: What details to ask for when answering the phone

When you answer the phone, the first thing you should ask for is

  • the file reference, or

if the caller does not know the file reference

  • the full name of the deceased/transferor/settlor, and
  • the date of the event

If the caller does not know the file reference they are probably not entitled to any information about the estate. So you should be careful to follow these instructions to protect yourself from giving out any information the caller is not entitled to.

Once you have enough information to identify the file, if the caller is a solicitor or accountant you should ask for:

  • their name
  • the full name of their firm, and
  • the date and reference of their last letter to us or the date they sent the HMRC Account

If the caller is not a solicitor or accountant ask for:

  • their full name
  • their address, including postcode
  • details of their connection with the estate

You must check the details the caller has given you against the information in the file or on the COMPASS record. Opening a new telephone note template (IHTM020XX) may help you with this.

Apart from the exceptions listed below, you must obtain this information before you discuss any case with a caller. Bogus callers may provide irrelevant information, before asking you to disclose an important detail. If you do not ask for the information at the start of the telephone call it is very difficult to do so later on.

Once you have this basic information, you can continue with the call, making sure you follow the instructions on disclosure of information (IHTM02045) over the telephone.

You must get this basic information for any calls put through to you from another section of the Office (including Helpline) unless the person who transfers the call to you tells you they have already established the caller’s identity.

The exceptions where you do not need to get these basic details from the caller are where they are:

  • simply giving us information (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • requesting forms
  • making a general enquiry, and
  • talking to us about anything that does not involve us giving any information about any estate, settlement or transfer.