Data Sharing with Local Authorities (burden of proof for belief significant harm)

Fiona Nicholson made this Freedom of Information request to HM Revenue and Customs

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

I asked here about HMRC's sharing of Child Benefit data with Bradford and Sheffield council

I received the following response:

"All the data that HMRC holds is subject to a statutory duty of confidentiality, which prohibits its disclosure except where the law provides otherwise. Typically for sharing with other parts of Government a specific legal provision is in place to authorise the disclosure (subject to various safeguards). In this particular instance the relevant legal provision is [2]Paragraph 10A of Schedule 5 Tax Credits Act 2002. This allows HMRC to share information it holds (for the purposes of its functions relating to tax credits, child benefit or guardian’s allowance) with a local authority in England and Wales for use for the purpose of any enquiry or investigation under Part 5 of the Children Act 1989 relating to the welfare of a child."

I am now making a separate request to clarify the information already received.

In relation to Schedule 5:

1/ Is there any burden of proof on the body which is asking for HMRC data?
2/ How would a local authority be required to demonstrate it has reasonable cause to suspect a child is likely to suffer significant harm?

"10A(1)This paragraph applies to information, other than information relating to a person’s income, which is held for the purposes of functions relating to tax credits, child benefit or guardian’s allowance— ...
(2)Information to which this paragraph applies may be supplied to—
(a)a local authority in England and Wales for use for the purpose of any enquiry or investigation under Part 5 of the Children Act 1989 relating to the welfare of a child"
(1)Where a local authority— ...
(b)have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare."

Yours faithfully,

Fiona Nicholson on behalf of No reply eCase (FOI Central Team),

Our ref: FOI2016/00294

Dear Fiona Nicholson,

Freedom of Information Act 2000 Acknowledgement

Thank you for your communication of 15th November which has been passed to
HMRC's Freedom of Information Team.

We have allocated the above reference which you should quote if you need
to contact us.

The Team will arrange for a reply to be sent to you which will either
comply with HMRC's obligations under Freedom of Information Act or, if we
think it's an enquiry that we don't need to address under the terms of the
Act, let you know why. If it is the latter we will, if possible, pass it
on to a more appropriate part of the Department for answer.

Yours sincerely

HMRC Freedom of Information Act Team

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

That's great, thank you very much.

Yours faithfully,

Fiona Nicholson

HM Revenue and Customs

1 Attachment

Ms Nicholson,

Please find attached our reply to your FOI request.


Phil Hogan
Benefits & Credits
Tel No: 03000 586534
Room 1C/13 | 100 Parliament Street | London SW1A 2BQ

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Dear Phil,

Thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

Fiona Nicholson

Fiona Nicholson left an annotation ()

HMRC response says

'I can confirm that there is no burden of proof, as such, on a local authority in England and Wales in seeking HMRC data. Legislation provides that the local authority should conduct enquiries to ascertain appropriate information in conducting enquiries in respect of child welfare that includes visiting the last known address etc.

On making a request to HMRC, the local authority must confirm that they have undertaken and exhausted all appropriate avenues to identify the required information.

The matter of cause (i.e. decision on vulnerability/risk of harm) is out of the scope of HMRC’s functions, therefore the local authority is not required to demonstrate that to HMRC.

The authority is considered to be a trusted partner and as such accepts that should access to HMRC information be abused, there is potential for HMRC to invoke the criminal sanction for “wrongful disclosure” under section 19(1) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005:
“(1) A person commits an offence if he contravenes section 18(1) or 20(9) by
disclosing revenue and customs information relating to a person whose identity -
(a) is specified in the disclosure, or (b) can be deduced from it.”'

Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005

Wrongful Disclosure
Public Interest Disclosure

Fiona Nicholson left an annotation ()