Commentary

A3.104A HMRC officers—conduct, confidentiality and disclosure of information

Administration and compliance

A3.104A HMRC officers—conduct, confidentiality and disclosure of information

A3.104A HMRC officers—conduct, confidentiality and disclosure of information

For the latest New Development, see ND.1758.

HMRC officers—standards of conduct generally

In addition to following the standards set out in the Charter (see A3.104), like other civil servants, HMRC officers are subject to a code of conduct. The Civil Service Code sets out values and standards of behaviour, including what standards of behaviour are expected in relation to:

  1.  

    •     integrity

  2.  

    •     honesty

  3.  

    •     objectivity

  4.  

    •     impartiality (including political impartiality and restricting involvement in political activities)

For example, officers must not use any knowledge gained in the course of their duties to further their own interests.

Note that the Scottish Government1 and Welsh Government2 have their own versions of the code.

When making a complaint (see A5.401), it may be relevant to raise HMRC officers' non-compliance with the Civil Service code.

HMRC's duty of confidentiality

A general duty of confidentiality is owed by officers of HMRC3.

In its internal guidance, HMRC emphasises4 that its officers are under a very strict legal duty to maintain the confidentiality of information. Traditionally, HMRC always required written authorisation from taxpayers before dealing with their agents, but consent may in some circumstances now be given electronically or by telephone5.

The duty does not extend however to prevent disclosures6:

  1.  

    (a)     which are not contravening any restriction imposed by the Commissioners for HMRC and which are made for the purposes of an HMRC function

  2.  

    (b)     made in the public interest or to a prosecuting authority

  3.  

    (c)     made for the purposes of civil proceedings relating to an

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