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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Overview: Inspections

We may enter premises and inspect

  • the premises, and
  • assets on those premises, and
  • documents on those premises.

There are limitations to any inspection, depending on the circumstances, see CH25000+.

We cannot search premises, nor can we search for assets or documents. We cannot inspect certain classes of documents, see CH22000.

Normally, we must give the occupier of the premises at least 7 days notice of our inspection. But if the occupier agrees we can give less notice. This notice will usually be in writing to reduce the chance of misunderstanding and will explain the occupier’s rights. Where essential, we can make an unannounced or short notice inspection but this must be agreed by an authorised officer or approved by the tribunal.

Most people co-operate fully when we carry out an inspection. However, we may charge a monetary penalty if a person deliberately obstructs an officer of HMRC during the course of an inspection that has been approved by the tribunal.

There will not be a penalty if the person has a reasonable excuse, see CH26300, for the obstruction.

There is a right of appeal against any penalty, see CH26900.

Detailed guidance on inspection powers starts at CH25000.

Note that this page does not apply to excise duties, as for excise you will use powers under CEMA79. (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)