Your rights and safeguards 2: Third party information notice
We outline the rights and safeguards the law gives you when HMRC have given you a formal notice asking you for certain information and documents in order to check someone else’s tax position
This page aims to expand the information given in HMRC’s own compliance factsheets – specifically CC/FS2: Compliance checks – information notices and CC/FS23: Compliance checks – third party information notices. It also adds to information given about your rights in the HMRC Charter.
HMRC’s request must be reasonable
HMRC can only require you to show them something that they reasonably need in order to check the tax position of the other person they have identified in the notice they have given you. However, at the time of writing the draft Finance Bill 2021 includes provisions which will allow HMRC to ask you for information for the purpose of collecting a tax debt of the person identified. In some circumstances, the tribunal may have agreed to HMRC giving you a notice, and may permit HMRC not to name the taxpayer to whom it relates. If HMRC ask you to produce information and/or documents by a particular time, or at a particular place, that request too must be reasonable.
To produce a copy
You may produce a copy of any document HMRC ask you for, unless the notice specifies that you must produce the original, or HMRC make a written request for the original.
What HMRC may not ask you for
The law does not permit HMRC to ask you for:
- Documents that you do not have in your possession and cannot easily get hold of
- Anything to do with a pending appeal about tax
- Personal records (that is, relating to the taxpayer’s physical or mental health, or spiritual or personal welfare)
- Journalistic material (if you are a professional journalist)
- A document the whole of which is more than six years old, unless authorised by a senior HMRC official
- Information or documents relating to a person who has died if more than four years have elapsed since the death
- Anything that is confidential between the taxpayer and his or her legal adviser
However, HMRC may ask for a document that contains personal information about the taxpayer with the relevant passages blocked out.
Your right of appeal
You normally have the right to appeal to the tribunal against an information notice if you think it would be unduly onerous to comply with it. Or you can appeal on the same grounds against anything the notice requires you to do.
You can also ask for an independent internal review (see also HMRC’s factsheet HMRC1: HM Revenue & Customs decisions – what to do if you disagree). If you appeal, you must do so in writing within 30 days of the date you are given this notice.
You must give your form or letter (the ‘notice of appeal’) to the officer who gave you the notice. In some circumstances you are permitted to make a late appeal (again, see also the HMRC1 factsheet).
When you do not have a right of appeal
You do not have a right of appeal if:
- You are being asked to produce statutory records (unfortunately the law does not say what ‘statutory records’ are, but HMRC have provided some further information on GOV.UK).
- The notice says that it has already been approved by the tribunal (see below)
But if the tribunal has approved the notice, you have the right to check that:
- The application to the tribunal was made by an authorised HMRC officer
- You have been given a reasonable opportunity to make representations
- The tribunal has been given a summary of your representations
- The tribunal is satisfied that giving the notice is justified