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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Conditions and safeguards: What we can require or inspect: What to ask for and when to ask for it

You should aim to identify and gather all the information that it is reasonable to examine at that time for the purposes of the check and to address the risk. You must be able to justify your request before a tribunal if the person doesn’t comply with your request.

How much information to request

When you are putting together an information request, you may think that examining the information that you get could mean that you will then need further information to complete your check of the person’s tax position. Should you ask for all the information you think you may need in a single request?

It is a matter of balance.

  • Your request for further information now could be justified if there is a strong likelihood that you will need the further information and it is easier for the person to supply it now rather than later.
  • On the other hand, your request for further information now could not be justified if there is not currently a strong likelihood that you will need the further information. Where that is the case, you should leave your request for the further information until later, when its possible helpfulness becomes clearer and more certain.

It may be better to make several targeted information requests as your compliance check progresses to address risks as they arise rather than one wider request at the outset. But you should avoid making numerous ‘piecemeal’ requests. There is more detailed operational guidance at CH207310.

There are some limitations on what information we can require, see CH22000, even if the information would otherwise meet the ‘reasonably required’ test, see CH21620.

Once you have information or documents that you reasonably require to check the tax position and you have discovered inaccuracies as a result, you should ask for information or documents that will shed light on the behaviour that led to those inaccuracies. You should not wait until you have quantified all the inaccuracies before asking for that information and those documents. If you do wait, those documents may be destroyed before you eventually ask for them.

Notice to third parties

Where you are considering a notice to a third party, it may be possible to discuss your needs beforehand with the third party if you have no concerns about

  • possible collusion with the person about whom you are seeking information,
  • destruction of any documents you require.

The third party knows what they have, where it is stored and how easy it is to retrieve. This may help to focus on requirements more clearly and help to minimise the costs and other burdens involved in meeting your request.

For further guidance on notices to third parties, see CH23620.