Investigation work: opening under Code 8: advice and confidentiality
Where there is more than one taxpayer present at the opening meeting they should be told at the start of the meeting that HMRC has a duty of confidentiality. The meeting may be wide-ranging and is likely to cover both business and private matters. Each taxpayer should be asked to confirm that private financial details can be discussed with all present. The taxpayers should be invited to indicate at any point during the meeting if they would prefer to answer questions without others being present. These remarks about confidentiality should still be made even where the taxpayers present are husband and wife. In fact, it will often be more efficient to have clarified the issue of confidentiality before the meeting. Nevertheless, this should still be raised at the start of the meeting so that there is no misunderstanding.
If any taxpayer wants to be dealt with separately from the outset then matters should be arranged accordingly.
Where business matters are being discussed it is generally the SI preferred option for all taxpayers to be present during the opening meeting and it may be appropriate to re-address the confidentiality issues when the private affairs of the taxpayers are to be discussed.
It should also be noted that where more than one adviser is present (particularly where they represent different persons or entities), confirmation should be sought that the taxpayer is happy for them to be present when the affairs of other persons or entities that they don’t represent are discussed. For further advice on confidentiality see SIOG and the Information Disclosure Guide.