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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

From
HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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Record Keeping: How records may be preserved: Computer records

A person is required to keep some original documents, see CH13300. For other documents, a person may fulfil their duty to keep records by preserving the information contained in them. This provision was originally introduced with computer records in mind. Where records are kept on computer, the records can include

  • the actual computer or server, including an internal hard drive system
  • an external storage device holding backed-up information or scans, such as a

    • hard drive
    • magnetic tape
    • flash drive or memory stick
    • optical disk
    • CD or DVD
    • floppy disk.

Backed up information may be accessed remotely or online.

It will still be necessary to keep the original documents that actually record the sales, purchases and other expenses, and so on, unless those original documents have been copied in a way that provides an exact replica. This includes copies on computer-based optical imaging systems, provided the images are full and complete copies (including any valuable information on the reverse) that can be reproduced in a legible form, see CH13100. Preserving documents in this way will satisfy the requirement to preserve records and produce documents, for example from long-term storage.

Where information is kept on computer media, the person must be able to convert the data into a satisfactory, legible form on request. But computer programs are often altered or upgraded or an annual license allowed to lapse. If this happens, the person must keep the original program or make other arrangements to reconstruct the data.

However, keeping the program will only help where it can be reinstalled easily and the relevant data accessed to reconstruct documents. There is no point in keeping programs if they will not run on a new computer platform. If the program cannot be used, it will be necessary for the person to make alternative arrangements to access old information immediately.

Where information is preserved on computer media, a copy of any document forming part of the records is admissible in evidence in any proceedings before the tribunal as if it were the original.

TMA70/S12B (4)

TMA70/SCH1A/PARA2A (3)

FA98/SCH18/PARA22

VATA94/SCH11/PARA6 (4)

FA08/S114

FA10/SCH1/PARA34

CEMA79/S118A