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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Information Notices: The notice: Meaning of 'specify'

Your information notice must specify as clearly as possible the information or documents you require.

You should specify identifiable documents if you can. For example “…your letter to XX Bank Ltd dated 24 July 2011”.

If you cannot specify, you should describe as clearly and narrowly as possible the documents. For example, “…all correspondence between you and XX Bank Ltd in July 2011”.

This is because the information or documents must be reasonably required, see CH21620, for the purpose of checking the person’s tax position in question. It is not normally reasonable to require more information or documents than are needed in order to carry out the check, but see CH21640.

For example

  1. In checking a business return you might use a phrase such as ‘business records’ in your notice rather than one with a wider meaning such as `all documents’. ‘All documents’ might raise doubts about the excessive scope of the notice. On the other hand, the word ‘record’ clearly does not include, for example, correspondence. If correspondence is reasonably required to check the person’s tax position, your notice should refer to it specifically.
  2. If you request a person to produce an electronic record held on a computer, it may not be sufficient for the person to produce a printed copy of it, see CH23360. You can, if you have reasonable grounds to do so, make a request in writing 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’ as is reasonably specified or described in the notice.

Wherever possible the notice should also specify the period in respect of which the information or documents are required. For example, “… sales invoices for the period from 1 April 2015 to 30 June 2015 inclusive”.

There will be occasions when it is not possible to specify the information or documents required or the precise period over which the tax position existed. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to use broader descriptions, see CH23400.