HMRC internal manual

PAYE Manual

Individual records: PAYE records: confidentiality of information

You must make sure that any information that you acquire in the course of your work, especially about customer’s affairs, is not misused or discussed outside the Department without authorisation. A serious view is taken of any failure to observe proper standards of confidentiality and customer privacy. Any breach will be investigated and disciplinary action up to and including dismissal may be taken against the individual involved.

You should not attempt to access or browse your own records or records of family members, friends or celebrities. Ensure that you understand and observe the procedures at HRLG3.2.5 ‘Confidentiality and customer privacy’.

Now that taxpayer records can be accessed in other Processing Offices, you need to be even more careful, ensuring information is only given out to a caller if they prove beyond doubt that they are who they purport to be. You should remember

  • Unscrupulous callers will know about the facility and they are more likely to make bogus calls to offices that do not own the taxpayer record than the owning office. If they fail to obtain the answer from one office, there is now nothing to stop them trying another office for the same information
  • It is unlikely that an agent acting for a taxpayer will contact an office other than that which deals with his client. The receipt of this type of call should also make you suspicious
  • Another Processing Office should have no need to telephone you for information that you can view using wider access. On receipt of such a call you should become suspicious

If the computer system is not available, there may be an emergency need for a telephone call. If you receive a call from another Processing Office you should

  • Take the telephone number of the caller
  • Check that it is the correct number for the Processing Office
  • Telephone back with the information

To confirm a personal caller’s identity

  • Ask to see some form of verifiable identity

Such as

* A driving license

To confirm a telephone caller’s identity

  • Take their telephone number and offer to telephone back


  • Before phoning back check the number using a directory or enquiry service
  • Determine if there is any information held on the taxpayer record which is likely to be known only by them

If you have any doubt at all do not give out confidential information to a caller either in person or over the telephone.

To conform to legislation, HMRC must ensure that computers are not being used unless there is a legitimate business need. This applies equally to viewing records as it does to updating them. An audit trail is created each time a user accesses a record and any unauthorised or inappropriate accesses will be considered for action under the Department’s Conduct and Discipline rules, and may also constitute a criminal offence.