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HMRC internal manual

International Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Exchange of information: Use and Disclosure of information received from overseas

The instruments listed in INTM156010 always restrict the use and onward disclosure of information obtained from another country. HMRC is bound by these international commitments. The provisions on use and disclosure of information vary, but the usual rule is that the information can be used only for the purposes of the assessment and enforcement of taxes covered by these instruments. EC law instruments tend to be slightly more flexible: e.g. the EC Mutual Assistance Directive covers only direct taxes and taxes on insurance premiums but information received under these Directives can be used also in relation to VAT matters and certain excise duties.

These restrictions override HMRC’s authority (under the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005) to use information held for one HMRC function in relation to another HMRC function. So, for example, information cannot be used for purposes such as the National Minimum Wage or Tax Credits. The restrictions may also override any legal gateways allowing HMRC to disclose information to other government departments and agencies, including law enforcement agencies.

So before any information relating to a taxpayer is disclosed to another department or agency it is necessary to identify and exclude information that has been received from an overseas tax authority. In most cases it will be clear from the documentation on file if the information came from an overseas tax authority and also under which instrument that information has been provided. Exceptionally, HMRC may share information received from another country with the Civil Recovery & Tax Team in the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) - if it is for the purpose of their assessment and collection of tax functions. SOCA’s Civil Recovery & Tax Team is equally bound by the terms of the relevant instrument under which information was provided to HMRC and must not disclose the information further, e.g. to another part of SOCA. SOCA may also ask HMRC to make a request for information on their behalf to a tax administration in another country.

Local offices will not receive information directly from overseas tax authorities. This will happen via one of the offices authorised to exchange information with that authority (see INTM156020 above). Advice on use and disclosure will normally be given with the information. But in all cases where there are doubts or difficulties concerning use and disclosure, advice should be sought from the office that provided the information.

If a Court Order is received requiring the disclosure of information received from an overseas tax authority, advice should be obtained immediately from the Tax Treaty Team at CTIAA Business International, based at 100 Parliament Street in London.

Any issues involving inheritance tax should be referred to the Specialist Personal Tax, Trusts & Estates, based at Ferrers House in Nottingham (Scotland: Meldrum House, Edinburgh) who are responsible for exchanges under the UK’s double taxation agreements covering taxes on estates, gifts and inheritances.