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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

How to do a compliance check: notebooks for compliance checks: introduction

This guidance should be followed by all staff carrying out civil compliance checks where they are using notebooks.

The use of notebooks is mandatory for

  • VAT
  • International Trade
  • Excise duties
  • Environmental Taxes.


The use of notebooks is not mandatory for direct taxes but where the business has agreed that direct tax caseworkers should use notebooks then this guidance must be followed.

If the use of notebooks has not been agreed by the business then caseworkers must follow the guidance for notes of meeting at CH204510.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

Notebooks are used by caseworkers to record the work they have undertaken either at a customer’s premises or at the office. This includes meetings held with the person or their representative. The policy relating to use of the notebooks by caseworkers is the responsibility of the Compliance Process, Policy and Guidance Team within COPGU.

When using notebooks in the course of your compliance checks you must follow the rigorous procedures around their use because you may need to

  • have access to the original notes taken at the time of the compliance check, and
  • be able to understand them some time after they were made.


Notebooks may be called upon as evidence for a review, appeal, tribunal or court case and you must be prepared to demonstrate to the Tribunal the integrity of your original notes, see CH204080.

The completion and management assurance of notebooks must be of a high standard.

However, the main records should be within the Caseflow record or in the VAT Electronic Folder (EF). You must make sure the audit process is auditable without the need to access notebooks, except for detail which is impractical to transfer to the Caseflow or EF report.

Aide memoires

If you use an aide memoire with standard questions to assist you during a compliance check or meeting you must record responses to questions in your notebook. Responses should not be recorded on the aide memoire.

A copy of the aide memoire must be retained as part of the audit trail and an electronic copy should be stored in Caseflow or other case management system.

Where standard aide memoires are adapted to fit the compliance check the adapted aide memoire must be retained as part of the audit trail.