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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: authorised officer: classes of authorised officer: the principles

The authorised officer procedure is designed to provide a balance between

  • the need for HMRC officers to exercise powers which are potentially intrusive and
  • the need to safeguard the rights of the person whose tax position is being checked.

HMRC’s operational activities are so diverse that it is not feasible to adopt a single approach across the Department. Each business area will have its own set of agreed assurance measures that address the risk factors that each area faces.

In deciding which classes of authorised officer should apply in each business area the following principles must be followed.

  • No self-authorisation - although FA08/Sch36 allows for an authorised officer to either take action or agree that a non-authorised officer can take action, our policy is that there will always be a two-stage process.
  • Independence from caseworker - in some circumstances the authorised officer may be in a different management chain to that of the caseworker.
  • An authorised officer must have the necessary skills, experience and training in the use of information and inspection powers and in the work area so that they can take a balanced view about proportionality and risk.
  • In some cases, authorisation will be limited to authorised officers within specialist teams or individuals who have had greater experience of particular types of cases.

The authorisation procedure must be sufficiently flexible to cater for urgent operational needs. Authorisation may sometimes be given verbally from a remote location so long as the authorised officer makes written notes and gives the same considerations as they would in a formal submission for authorisation. The caseworker should make a note of the telephone call, including the date and time of call, and ensure that the authorised officer’s notes and written authorisation are linked to the note of telephone call in the papers.

This concession should be used in very limited circumstances.

Example - a caseworker has written authority from an authorised officer to make an unannounced visit under FA08/Sch36 to specific business premises. At the inspection it is evident that other business premises need to be inspected immediately.

An authorised officer is not with the caseworker at the inspection to provide authorisation to extend the inspection to other premises. The caseworker telephones an authorised officer to report the full facts, see CH260500. The authorised officer considers the facts, see CH261000, and makes a decision based on them.

The authorised officer must make written notes of the facts, the circumstances of the authorisation request and their decision.

When the caseworker returns to the office written confirmation of the request for authority must be sent to the authorised officer.