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HMRC internal manual

Claimant Compliance Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Opening and Working Enquiries: NTC enquiry windows - multiple awards during the year - different enquiry windows - determining enquiry window for year

Because the NTC system will issue separate S18 decisions in respect of each award period, it is possible that different enquiry windows may apply to each period.

If the S18 decisions were made on different dates, the enquiry windows (which open the day after the final S18 decision is made) for the different periods could open on different dates. For example Katie and Nick had two awards of tax credits in 2005/2006 so they receive two S17 notices but they are received a week apart. They return each of them and S18 decisions are made on 19 May and 21 June 2006. The enquiry window therefore opens on either 20 May or 22 June 2006.

The enquiry window would close on different dates if the S17 notices were sent out at different dates, with the later one specifying a 1st specified date later than 31 August. In that case, the enquiry window for the later period could close on a date later than 31 August (for example, if the 1st specified date was 31 October 2006, and the customer reported actual income by that date, the enquiry window would close on 31 October 2007).

For example in March 2005 Katie and Nick claim tax credits for 2005/2006. On 1 July 2005 they cease to be entitled to tax credits because they go to Spain to work in a bar. They return to the UK on 15 February 2006 and again claim tax credits. That claim is taken up for a pre-award examination but they are slow at responding to it. A S17 notice is issued for the period 6 April 2005 to 30 June 2005 and a S18 decision is made on 21 June 2006. The pre-award examination is only settled on 30 August 2006 when a S14 decision is made. This in turn generates a S17 notice for that period which is issued on 6 September with a 1st specified date of 6 October 2006. The enquiry window will therefore close on either 31 August 2007 or 6 October 2007.

The NTC system might (through not being able to link the customer’s separate responses to separate S17 notices) make what is considered to be a final decision in respect of one period (for example, the customer(s) might forget to tick the Estimated Income box on one of their responses) and an interim one in respect of another. In fact, if an interim decision were made for one period, it would mean that interim decisions were also appropriate for any other periods during the year (because it would follow that the income for the entire year was to some extent estimated). The enquiry window for the year will therefore not open until after the final S18 decision has been made (after the customer(s) has supplied their actual income figure, or after the second specified date if they have not done so by then).

If the NTC system has made a final decision, in respect of one of the award periods during the year, after the first specified date, you should determine the enquiry window for that period as if that decision had been correctly made, even if you consider that it should not have been final.

You should consider each award period during the year separately, then determine the opening and closing dates of the enquiry window for the whole year as follows

  • the date the window opens should be taken as the latest of the opening dates applying to any of the individual award periods
  • the date the window closes should be taken as the earliest of the closing dates applying to any of the individual award periods.

Note that any change to the normal date as a result of the closure (or extension) of the SA enquiry window will need to be taken into account when comparing enquiry windows (see CCM12650 & CCM12660).

If you follow these guidelines you will always be assured that you have opened your enquiry within the time limit for doing so. You should note however that, in some cases, this may mean that the enquiry window is open for only a relatively short period.