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HMRC internal manual

Specialist Investigations Operational Guidance

HM Revenue & Customs
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Introduction and organisation: communication: communicating by external email: sending external emails to customers

Email correspondence has the same official standing as any other form of contact with the customer and our language and conduct must reflect this.

You should delete earlier replies in an email conversation or start a new email and only send what you need to and no more. This prevents the possibility of earlier parts of conversations being altered without you noticing and reduces the amount of information stored.

Where possible desensitize the information within the email, for example by quoting only part of the VRN or UTR.

When replying to a Customer’s email please be aware that if you copy HMRC staff in at the time you send the email to the customer, their contact details are revealed to all recipients.

Once you have sent an email you have lost control of where it might end up. Every email to an external customer should conform in every respect to the standards you would apply in writing a letter. Just as your letters represent HMRC, so do your emails. There is useful information in the email and internet guidance which you should view regularly. There is also a comms resource available with guidance on writing and sending emails to customers.

Any email stored electronically must be in Caseflow or a work area controlled access folder they must not be stored in a personal folder. From a disclosure point of view, this also includes external emails issued which must be moved out of the ‘Sent items’ folder.

Always double-check that you have selected the correct addresses, attachments, and so on, before pressing the send button and if in doubt, don’t send!

You should consider whether your communication should be sent as a PDF attachment using a letter template, rather than as a text within email. The way an email looks when it is read varies from system to system. If the communication relies on formatting then it would be more suited to being an attachment.

You can password protect documents at the customer’s request using the password protection in the Tools menu of Microsoft Office programs. Supply passwords to the recipient by separate email or by telephone but please take care to check the identity of the contact.

If you decide the information in an attachment requires protection, you should consider whether it should be sent via email. If you decide that it should then you should also consider using encryption and password protection (WinZip is available on SRS. Please use 256bit encryption).