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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: information powers: rules that apply to all notices: time to comply

The notice must specify a reasonable period when the information or documents are to be provided or produced, see CH23420.

There is no minimum period. However, as the specified period must be reasonable it must take account of the nature of the information or documents required and how easy it will be for the person to provide or produce them.

Each notice should be judged on its own merits.

A standard requirement for the provision/production of documents by post will allow 30 days. The specified period will also need to take account of the time the notice and the information may spend in the post and may need to be longer to take into account a business’s seasonal peaks.

The date you specify may fall at the weekend or a Public Holiday; this is acceptable since you will specify the date by which the information should be received and will have allowed a reasonable time for compliance with the notice in calculating this date.

You should consider allowing a longer period if you are asking for a large amount of information or you have reason to believe that the information is not readily available. For example, a person who needs to retrieve documents from archive storage and sift through them to find the required items, perhaps having to consider whether only parts of documents should be produced, might need far longer than 30 days to complete the task.

You should also consider carefully any reasonable request for more time to comply with an information notice. Where appropriate you should extend the period to take account of any new or relevant factors. See also the guidance on reasonable excuse at CH26320.

As well as the flexible approach described above, HMRC has also agreed to allow more time when any requests are made to an agent in December or January during the agent’s peak work period before the 31 January Income Tax Self Assessment filing date.

If you issue an opening letter to an agent during December and January you should allow

  • an extra week for letters issued between 1 and 20 December, and
  • an extra two weeks for letters issued between 21 December and 31 January.

You must make a note of the reason why you allow a longer time to respond.

If you require records to be produced for inspection at a visit, the period between the issue of the inspection and information notices and the date of the visit is likely to be less than 30 days. In all cases, the person to whom the notices are issued should be asked to contact the visiting officer if they will not be able to produce the records on the proposed date in order that the inspection can be rearranged for a later date, or an agreement may be made for some documents or information to be provided at a later date than the visit.

It might be reasonable to expect a person to comply with a notice to provide simple information or produce a readily available document within a fairly short period. If you are at premises where the information is kept it might be reasonable to request the information at once, particularly if your request is for statutory records. You might think it reasonable to issue the notice there and then specifying the end of the day as the time to comply. Before considering this action you should take into account any reasons the person gives for not complying with your initial informal request.

This approach should be reserved for cases where there has been a history of non-cooperation and you should be mindful of the possible penalty consequences if the notice is not complied with, see CH26220.

You should normally avoid this type of approach where you require information or non-statutory documents since the person can still refuse on the basis that they will appeal against the notice, see CH24300.

However, the person won’t have a right of appeal if your notice is tribunal approved.