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HMRC internal manual

International Exchange of Information Manual

Exchange of Information: Key concepts: Confidentiality

All customer information exchanged under international agreements must be treated as confidential, and as we would treat our own customer information. 

All officers of HMRC are bound by the Commissioners of Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (CRCA05).  Under this Act information cannot be disclosed without a legal reason to do so, which can include a legal gateway (IEIM101200).  International agreements provide legal gateways for exchange of information by Competent Authorities (IEIM101400).  

The exchanged information can only be used for the purposes set out in the relevant legal gateway (IEIM200200 and IEIM200300).   For this reason, information received under an international agreement should always retain a label to show that it as such, and to show which agreement.  This is to ensure that the information is correctly handled in line with the terms of the agreement.

Uses of the information received within HMRC

The agreements are based on exchanging information that is foreseeably relevant (IEIM101300) to the administration or enforcement of tax; this may be only the taxes covered in the agreement or it may be wider.  There is further guidance on this at IEIM200200.

Onward disclosure of the information

The information can be disclosed in court in relation to tax enforcement or prosecution (see also IEIM101800).

There may be times when the information is of use to other agencies, such as those dealing with law enforcement.  Some international agreements provide for the use of information for purposes other than tax where the domestic laws of both jurisdictions permit such a disclosure and specific agreement is given for its use by the sending Competent Authority.  There is more guidance on this at IEIM200300.


Looking at information she has received from Jurisdiction Y under a tax treaty, an officer believes it would be useful to a UK law enforcement agency.  Providing there is a disclosure gateway between HMRC and that agency, and an equivalent gateway in Jurisdiction Y between its tax authority and the equivalent law enforcement agency, the officer can ask an HMRC Competent Authority to seek the permission of Jurisdiction Y to pass the information on.

You cannot disclose information you received under an agreement with one jurisdiction on to another jurisdiction under a different agreement without obtaining permission to do so.  See also the guidance on using multilateral agreements for joint audits at IEIM130300.

You should also consider the source of the information and the terms of the agreement it was received under when you are asked to disclose information under the Freedom of Information Act or similar disclosure rules.  When an FOI request would cover information received via a Competent Authority, you should notify the Competent Authority before disclosing it.

For more general information on confidentiality, see the Information Disclosure Guide.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)