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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: notebooks for compliance checks: completion of notebooks

If you are using a tablet or laptop please follow the guidance at CH204100.

Any handwritten notes made during official contact with customers should be recorded in a notebook and in black ink. It is important that they are completed legibly and properly maintained.

Note: For the purpose of this guidance a page is both sides of a sheet of paper and each side must be numbered.

Each notebook should be

  • bound (either hard backed or soft backed) or stapled in the middle so the pages are firmly fixed
  • numbered and used consecutively
  • maintained for 6 years from the date of the last entry and then destroyed in year 7, unless any cases are still open and the records are likely to be required for disclosure purposes or as evidence at a tribunal, see Notebooks retention schedule.


The destruction date should be marked clearly on the front of the book.


  • Notebooks must contain an index at the front, with continuous page numbers, each number referring to one side of a page.
  • The start and finish date of the notebook should be shown.
  • Each side of the pages within each notebook should also be numbered and used consecutively.
  • All entries must only be made in black ink using a ballpoint pen.
  • Caseworkers must not use gel, fibre-tipped, fountain or felt-tipped pens as the ink may leak into the paper and prevent both sides of the sheet of paper being used.
  • Any rough notes taken on separate sheets of paper should be attached to the relevant page of the notebook.
  • A separate side of a sheet of paper with a clean page opposite must be used for each new visit so that the details of another person are not visible.
  • Notes must be made either at the time or immediately afterwards. The date and time they were written must be recorded at the end of the notes.
  • Each visit should be identifiable in the notebook by the date, time and tax reference number. The name or names of any persons interviewed should also be included together with the names of anyone accompanying you or the customer.
  • On completion of the visit, unused lines must be ruled off with a Z and signed by the caseworker. All unused space should be made unavailable to prevent anything being added later.
  • Any mistake identified at the time of writing must be scored through with a single line, initialled by the caseworker and the correct words inserted after the error. Correction fluid or other such correction media must not be used to amend an entry.
  • If you are in a situation where you cannot use your normal notebook, notes can be written and fixed into the notebook as soon as is practically possible. The original notes must be stapled into the notebook. A colleague, preferably your line manager or an accompanying caseworker, should sign and date the insertion and the notebook.
  • Documents should only be stapled into notebooks in exceptional situations and the notebook should detail why it has been done. Under no circumstances must staples be removed from such documents as this may call into question the credibility of the notebook.
  • Documents must not be pasted into notebooks.


If you do not follow this guidance then the accuracy of notebook may be questioned at Tribunal.

Notebooks must not

  • have any pages removed
  • contain non-common abbreviations
  • contain unsolicited, unprofessional or offensive comments.


Customers must not be asked, or be permitted, to sign notebooks to signify approval of any notes. The only exceptions to this rule are certain specified Excise or Customs compliance checks, see guidance at CH204200.

See COG11660 for further information on disclosure and confidentiality regarding notebooks.


Amending information after signing the notebook

There may be exceptional cases where it is necessary for you to add or amend information after signing the notebook. If so, make a separate record in the notebook indicating the reason for the addition or amendment and record the date that the addition or amendment was made.