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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

From
HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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Dishonest tax agents: file access notice: penalties for failing to comply: offence of concealment in connection with a file access notice

A person commits an offence when they

  • conceal, destroy or otherwise dispose of a ‘required document’, or
  • arrange for the concealment, destruction or disposal of a required document.

The meaning of ‘required document’ depends on whether that document has been requested in a file access notice.

Where the document has been requested in a file access notice, ‘required document’ means one in respect of which

  • the notice has not been complied with, or
  • it has been complied with, but the person has been told by us, in writing, to continue to retain the document, and that notification has not been withdrawn.

Where the document has not been requested in a file access notice, ‘required document’ means

  • that we have told the person that we are likely to issue them with a file access notice for that document, and
  • no more than six months have lapsed since the person was, or was last, told.

A person commits an offence in respect of each required document that has been concealed, destroyed or otherwise disposed of.

Because a ‘required document’ can include a document that has not been requested in a file access notice, it means that a person can be prosecuted for concealing, destroying or otherwise disposing of a document even when a file access notice has not been issued.

Note that because a file access notice can be issued to people who are not tax agents, see CH182570, then the sanctions for not complying with a file access notice also apply to people who are not tax agents.

The person can be prosecuted for the offence, or charged penalties, but not both, see CH185480.

The burden of proof is on HMRC and the standard of proof is the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

A person who is found guilty of this 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.

Even if we decide not to prosecute, we can still charge the initial penalty, see CH183340. We are unable to charge the daily penalties, see CH183380, because the documents no longer exist.

FA12/SCH38/PARA21