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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Dishonest tax agents: conduct notice: offence of concealment in connection with a conduct notice

A person commits an offence when they conceal, destroy or otherwise dispose of a ‘material document’ after we issue a conduct notice, or after we advise that we are likely to issue a conduct notice. The offence includes arranging for a material document to be concealed, destroyed or disposed.

‘Material documents’ are any documents that we can seek under a file access notice, see CH182200, and are the tax agent’s working papers and other documents used in assisting clients with their tax affairs.

The offence can apply to both the tax agent and any other person who can reasonably be expected to know of the notice.

Where we have issued a conduct notice, no offence is committed where

  • the determination used to issue the conduct notice is set aside, see CH182160,
  • more than four years have passed since the conduct notice was given, or
  • the third party who destroys the documents was not aware of us issuing a conduct notice, or could not be reasonably be expected to know that we had issued a conduct notice.

Where we have not issued the conduct notice, but after we have advised that we are likely to issue a conduct notice, no offence is committed where

  • more than two years have lapsed since the individual was informed, or last informed, of our intention to issue a conduct notice, or
  • the person was not aware that we had advised that it was likely that a conduct notice would be issued.

The standard of proof for this offence is to the criminal standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and the burden of proof is on HMRC.

A person guilty of an offence is liable

  • on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, and
  • on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine, or both.