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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Record Keeping: How long must records be retained for: Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax: Person carrying on a trade, profession or business

A person who carries on a trade (including the letting of property), profession or business must retain their records and supporting documents, see CH11200, until the latest of

  1. the fifth anniversary of the 31 January next following the year of assessment, where the return is for a tax year. For example, the records for the year ending 5 April 2009 must be kept at least until 31 January 2015
  2. the sixth anniversary of the end of the period, where the return is for a period that is not a tax year. For example, the records for a return for the period 6 April to 9 July 2010 must be kept until 9 July 2016
  3. the completion of an enquiry into the matters to which the records relate. For example if an enquiry into a return for the year ended 5 April 2009 was closed by way of a final closure notice on 24 September 2016 the records for the year must be kept until at least that date, and
  4. the day on which the enquiry window for that return closes without an enquiry being opened. For a return filed on time this is 12 months after the date it is filed. For a return filed late, it is the first anniversary of the next quarter day falling after the return was filed. There is no difference between paper and online returns. You look at the date the return was filed.

Exceptionally, we may give a person a notice to make a return for a tax year or period after the date in 1 or 2 above has passed. The person must keep any records that they still have at that time until the later of the dates in 3 above.

If the records relate to the acquisition or improvement of a capital asset, see CH14650.

A person registered for VAT may be allowed to retain certain records for VAT purposes for a shorter period than those described above. CH15000 onwards describes how long VAT records must be retained.

We can charge a penalty if a person fails to keep or retain records, see EM4650.