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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: establishing the facts: asking for information: what to ask for and when to ask for it

You can ask for information and documents that are reasonably required for

  • the purposes of checking a person’s tax position, see CH21620 or
  • the purpose of protecting, securing, collecting or managing revenues derived from duties of excise.

If it is reasonable and proportionate to address risks you can ask for information informally that you know you cannot get using an information notice. If you do this you must not say or imply that you are able to require production of the information using formal powers. You cannot, for example, include restricted documents in an information notice, see CH22000.

At the same time you should think about how much you really need at the start of a check and at each point during a check, see CH21640. For example, you decide that you need to see a person’s business bank statements to check their income tax position for the year to 5 April 2009 and receive all but the first week of that year. Do you then give a notice for one week’s statements? Depending on the risks you are trying to address, you may decide that it is not reasonable or proportionate to issue an information notice for the missing information at that stage of your check. However, as the check develops, it may be essential to see the missing statements.

A request for information should cover all the tax and duty periods and taxes and duties being checked so that one notice is issued at a time, not several. For example, you are checking two Self Assessment returns and you decide that you need information that covers both return periods. In this instance, if you receive no response to your informal request, you should give one information notice covering both periods being checked.

You should never ask for information that HMRC should be expected to hold. For example, do not ask an employee for their P60 End of Year Certificate. You can get the details you need from internal HMRC sources.

You must ensure that the administrative burden you place on the person providing the information is proportionate to the risk.