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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Information & Inspection Powers: Types of inspection: Unannounced inspection

Unannounced inspections can only be made by

  • an authorised officer, see CH21720,
  • any officer with an authorised officer’s agreement, or
  • any officer with the approval of the tribunal, see CH25540.

The notice permitting the unannounced visit will show the date and time that the visit is to be carried out. You will find examples of the notice of agreement to be given by an authorised officer at CHApp1.11 and the notice of approval by the tribunal at CHApp1.13.

When you carry out the unannounced inspection, you must give the occupier of the premises the written notice of the inspection at the time inspection is to begin. Where the occupier of premises is a company or other business, you must be satisfied that the notice of agreement or approval is given to an appropriately senior person such as a director, site manager, partner or sole trader.

If the occupier is not present at the start of your visit you should give the inspection notice to any other person who appears to be in charge of the premises. For example, the person who has the keys to the premises.

In cases where there is no one on the premises who appears to be in charge at the time of the inspection, you must leave the notice in a prominent place at the premises. Take care to ensure the notice is free from public gaze and safe from the elements. If that is not possible the notice should be delivered to the occupier’s main postal business address.

There is no right to force entry to premises by any means, so it will be unusual for you to inspect vacant premises. It may, however, be reasonable to inspect publicly open places, for example, an unmanned commercial car park.

It is impractical for each inspection notice to specify all the rights of the occupier for an unannounced visit. So the occupier must always be given a copy of the Factsheet covering unannounced visits and allowed time to read it thoroughly before the inspection begins. This Factsheet sets out the occupier’s rights.