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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Inspection Powers: Meaning of 'inspect'

The power to inspect does not allow you to search for assets or documents. Inspect means that you may look at what you can see but you may not look for something that you cannot see.

There is a very broad rule of thumb that separates the two - “inspect is by eye and search is by hand”. This, however, is far too simplistic for most purposes.

Inspecting means you are allowed to touch and to open things as long as you are not searching for things. Wherever possible you should ask the person to open items for you to inspect the contents. You should expect to be escorted once you have entered premises but need not insist upon it.

CH25160 contains examples.

You have the power to

  • obtain and record information relating to the business premises, business assets, property, goods and business documents that have been inspected, see CH25320, and
  • mark assets to show they have been inspected, but see CH25340.