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HMRC internal manual

Appeals reviews and tribunals guidance

Reviews and appeals for direct taxes: appealing against a decision: telling the customer about the decision

In direct taxes the appealable decision is the formal notice, such as the notice of assessment, amendment, closure notice or determination. In each case the right of appeal is specifically given by statute, and appealable decisions include, but are not limited to

  • assessments
  • amendments
  • closure notices
  • determinations
  • information notices
  • directions.

The formal notice tells the customer what the decision is and about their rights of appeal.

Some formal notices also tell the customer about the background to the decision and how we reached it. Where this is not explained in the notice, it is good practice to send the customer a separate explanation letter. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to issue an explanation letter before the formal notice. This will give the customer an opportunity to make representations to us before we issue the notice.

Explanation letters

In any explanation letter we should normally, where relevant, explain to the customer

  • what our decision is
  • what period our decision covers
  • what we believe are the relevant facts
  • the reasons why we have reached our decision
  • how the specific legislation applies to the customer’s circumstances
  • how we have calculated the amount of any tax, national insurance contributions or penalties.

The information in an explanation letter will help the customers and their agents understand the decision we have made, and the reasons and legal basis for this. The decision maker should bear in mind, particularly where the customer is unrepresented, that their letter should be clear and easy to understand even if referring to legislation.

If explanation letters are properly worded and the customer subsequently asks for a review of the decision, see ARTG4000 onwards, the review officer should easily be able to identify from the formal notice and explanation letter

  • the decision they are required to review
  • the facts on which the decision maker relied
  • the decision maker’s reasoning, and
  • the relevant legislation.

Where the decision maker is notifying the customer of a decision following a penalty warning letter, see EM5207b.

Accountancy issues

Where HMRC intends to allege that the accountancy in a case is wrong, the decision maker should submit the case to the Compliance Accountant for their business unit, before issuing the formal decision notice.