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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

How to do a compliance check: resolving issues and disputes: introduction and scope

This guidance should be followed whenever a person does not agree with a decision you make during the course of a compliance check. The guidance applies to disputes over penalties in the same way as disputes over tax liabilities.

A person could disagree with

  • the need to produce information or documents that you have requested
  • the facts on which you have based your findings or your interpretation of evidence
  • your interpretation of law
  • your method of calculating tax
  • your decision about penalty behaviour or reductions for disclosure.

You must clearly set out any point(s) in dispute. This will help both sides to see:

  • what facts are likely to be relevant in resolving any open points, and
  • what information or documentation will be required to establish those facts.

Most issues can be settled by agreement when the facts have been established and the possible views presented, considered and discussed.

Working collaboratively with the person by sharing risks, remaining neutral and non-confrontational throughout the compliance check can help minimise the chances of getting into a dispute.

However, some issues cannot be settled in this way and for those cases it is important that the person recognises that they are in dispute and that you need to agree the relevant facts needed in order to resolve the dispute even if you disagree how the law applies to those facts.

This guidance explains how to 

  • (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • handle a dispute, clarify the points at issue and consider obtaining any further information and documents, see CH280300+
  • consider referral for Alternative Dispute Resolution, see CH280400.
  • progress with the dispute if there is a lack of cooperation, see CH280500.

In most cases the person will see that it is in their own interests to try and resolve the dispute, but you should not take this for granted.

If you are in dispute with a person it is your responsibility to settle the dispute.

In your review of the case you must consider if the decision on the dispute will fall under the remit of one of the dispute resolution boards following the guidance set out here.

You should continue to work collaboratively with the person or their agent at all stages of a dispute as this is more likely to encourage them to cooperate in settling the dispute.