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HMRC internal manual

Claimant Compliance Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Opening and Working Enquiries: Neutral approach

You can enquire into any person’s entitlement, and the amount of their award, for the year. You do not need to have a reason for making your enquiry. You should always adopt a neutral approach and should avoid giving the impression that you are challenging the customer’s entitlement, or that you suspect that something may be wrong. Even if you do have information to suggest that the entitlement or the amount of the award may be incorrect, you should keep an open mind - the information could be misleading, or the customer may be able to explain it. You should be aware at all times of the possibility that the customer may have made errors which have resulted in them receiving a smaller award of tax credits than they were entitled to.

You should not express grounds for concern at this opening stage, or ask customers for a general explanation for them. If you do, you may find it difficult to pursue your requests for information without seeming already to have rejected the explanations offered. The time to ask for and evaluate explanations is when you have considered the evidence you need for the purposes of your enquiry, and have a clearer idea of what, if anything, needs further explanation.

Once the customer has supplied the information requested, you may conclude that there are grounds for doubting their entitlement to tax credits, or for thinking that they may have been awarded the wrong amount of tax credit. Although you should not give your reasons for enquiring when you open the enquiry, you should be as open as possible when discussing with the customer your grounds for concern at this later stage. Not only will this help the customer to understand what they need to do, but it may also prevent them applying for a direction to close the enquiry (see CCM12300).