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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Information Notices: The notice: What is an electronic document or record

The terms ‘electronic document’ and ‘electronic record’ are interchangeable for these purposes.

An electronic document may be a physical object used to store the information. It might be

  • the actual computer or server, including an internal hard drive system, or
  • an external storage device holding backed up information or scans of previously printed documents such as

    • magnetic tape
    • optical disk
    • external hard drive
    • CD or DVD
    • floppy disk, or
    • memory stick.

There may be difficulties in producing an original electronic document for some of these categories. A person required to produce such a document may produce a copy of the information instead, see CH23480.

A copy is anything onto which information recorded in the document has been copied. So, if you require a person to produce an electronic record held on a computer (in itself a ‘document’), the person may copy that information onto, for example, a CD or DVD in order to comply with the notice.

It may be sufficient for the person to produce a printed copy of an electronic document. Where it is not, for example with large spreadsheets, you can, if you have reasonable grounds to do so, issue an information notice to the person to produce the original electronic document or an electronic copy. You do this by requiring the document to be ‘in such form’, see CH23220, as is reasonably specified, see CH23380, or described see CH23400, in the information notice.

Production of the original document or a copy will usually be at the location where the computer or server is kept. If you propose to require, or make a request for, production of the original electronic document or copy, you should first seek the advice of a Data Handling Specialist or Large Business, who specialise in such matters.