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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

HM Revenue & Customs
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How to do a compliance check: using inspection powers: during a visit: returning records

Records should be returned at the earliest possible opportunity. If necessary, take copies and return the originals.

If the person agrees to their return by post, you must send them by recorded/registered delivery. You should retain copies until you are satisfied that the originals have been safely received.

Where the records are returned in person you should obtain a receipt from the person. If a Form VAT 457 has been used, retrieve the original. If the person does not produce the original, obtain a signed receipt on the duplicate copy.

Other forms of receipt are also acceptable.

If the person refuses to return your receipt or issue one of their own you should still return the records, but at the same time you should make a careful note of the refusal.

There may be instances where you are unable to return the records because, for example, the person is missing or is no longer interested in getting the records back because they are now deregistered or have become insolvent. There is a limit to what you can do in these circumstances, but consider

  • initiating missing trader action
  • a Companies House search to identify the names and addresses of current directors who may accept the records
  • if the company is in liquidation, attempt to return the records to the liquidator
  • consulting HMRC Evasion Referral Team (ERT) if fraud is suspected.

If you cannot return the records you must arrange to keep them for the statutory period of preservation after which they may be destroyed as official waste. Obtain written authority for the destruction from your line manager.