Enquiries: Penalty cases: Claimant does not respond to opening letter
If the claimant does not respond to your opening letter by the date specified, you should:
- check to see if the information has been received in your office, but not yet passed to you
- consider whether there may be any exceptional circumstances preventing the claimant from replying, for example a postal dispute.
Where appropriate you should contact the claimant(s) by phone to remind them of the need to deal with your query. If you think there is a problem you can allow a further week or exceptionally more than this with your manager’s agreement.
If the opening letter has been returned RLS or you know the address is false - see CCM5287.
In all other cases if you are satisfied the claimant(s) has been given every opportunity to supply the information you will have 3 options:-
- take no further action
- make a formal request for the information
- amend the award
A failure to reply to your opening letter is not, in itself, grounds for amending the award. You must consider the risk and the evidence held. Where the risk is an Undisclosed Partner - see CCM15370 and then if appropriate - see below. In other risks your options are then:-
- Amend the award - where the evidence is strong enough to support revising the award continue as shown below.
Formal request for information - where there is not enough evidence to support the revising award but you and your manager do not believe this should lead to no further action you will need to make a formal request for the information. Where you need to follow this route - see CCM5090.
- If, exceptionally, on review you consider the case to have been wrongly selected for enquiry and that the risks of an incorrect award are minimal you should refer to your manager. If your manager agrees your analysis the enquiry should be closed as shown in CCM16270. However, you should remember that once you have closed an enquiry it cannot be re-opened if further information comes to light.
You will then calculate the penalty. CCM chapter 10 gives detailed guidance on how to calculate the penalty. Once you have calculated the amount you should show the amount of the penalty on form 94NTC
To revise the award you should use the standard letter template TCC94. The letter tells the claimant that you will be revising their award and they will soon receive a formal notification of their revised award. It also explains what will happen about recovering any overpaid tax credits and tells them we will charge a penalty.
Where the claim has been made by a couple in a joint household, only one letter should be sent addressed to both claimants. When sending out joint letters the claimants must still be part of a couple and residing at the same address. If they are part of a couple but residing at different addresses or no longer part of a couple, then a separate letter must still be sent to each claimant.
If the claimant has authorised an agent to act for them remember to send a copy of the letter to the agent.
Once you have issued the letter you must amend the award, however, before doing so you must consider whether adjustments are also needed to earlier or later years - see CCM16280. Once you have made the adjustments following CCM16290 or CCM16300 then BF your papers for 30 days to allow for the appeal period
- If the claimant appeals, see CCM16710
During the appeal period obtain a copy of the incorrect claim or statement as this will be needed if formal proceedings are necessary. Where the claim, statement or declaration was made by telephone, obtain a copy of the call transcript.