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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: using FA08/Sch36 inspection powers: introduction and scope

If your compliance check is into an excise duty, see CH201100, you will use powers under CEMA79. (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

An inspection under the powers provided by FA08/Sch36 can only be done when it is a reasonable and proportionate response to address the identified tax risk or risks, see CH21360.

Unless they have agreed a time and date in advance, the person must be given at least 7 days’ notice of the inspection unless an authorised officer has agreed that there is a reasonable requirement not to do so, for example, the nature of the risk requires an unannounced visit, see CH254000.

You must respect the person’s right to privacy provided by the Human Rights Act, see CH21340.

Unless your inspection is for the purposes of valuation, see CH256000, you may not enter or inspect any parts of premises that are used solely as a dwelling, although parts of a person’s home may fall into the definition of business premises that you may need to enter for the purposes of inspecting the business premises part and statutory records or business assets on the premises, see CH25180.

If a visit is for reasons other than an inspection under Schedule 36, for example

  • the person or their agent has asked you to attend their premises for a meeting
  • you need to establish the existence of and/ or identity of a ghost, see CH21680
  • you need to visit to ask for information from or about a missing trader
  • you need to examine documents produced in response to an information notice

then the inspection visit booking or authorisation arrangements will not apply. You can arrange the visit informally, or, if necessary, arrive unannounced.

When visiting under these circumstances, you must not let the person think you are using information or inspection powers. You need to tell them that you are seeking information informally. If the person does not want to cooperate on that basis, you will have to issue an information notice, see CH220000.

If, while visiting a person’s premises for one of the reasons under bullet points 2 to 4 above, the occupier invites you onto the premises to inspect the premises, assets, property, goods or records, you must inform them that you have no legal right to carry out an inspection without first giving them at least 7 days’ notice, although with their written agreement you can do the inspection there and then if it is convenient. The written agreement can be recorded on a locally produced form or in your notebook.