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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

The Human Rights Act and Penalties: background

The Human Rights Act came into force in the UK on 2 October 2000. It incorporated the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law and from this date these provisions became enforceable by UK tribunals and courts.

Article 6 of the ECHR gives a person certain rights and safeguards when they have been charged with what the ECHR and subsequent case law have defined as a ‘criminal offence’ for the purposes of Article 6. These rights include

  • the right to be informed promptly of the nature and cause of the charge against them
  • an entitlement to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time, and
  • the right not to self-incriminate.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

You can read the full text of the Human Rights Act on the Office of Public Sector Information website.

Because a person has these rights under Article 6 when we are considering whether we may charge a penalty, you must give the HRA message to a person before you discuss penalties. The guidance at CH300400+ explains when and how to do this.

Article 6 rights do not apply to the establishment of a person’s correct tax liability. They only apply to the HMRC penalties that are considered to be ‘criminal charges’ for the purposes of Article 6. CH300200 explains which HMRC penalties are considered to be ‘criminal charges’ and are affected by the Human Rights Act.

CH300500 explains what you must do when you have reason to believe that a penalty may be due.

The provisions apply to individuals, companies, partnerships and non-corporate bodies. The definition of a person for the purposes of the ECHR is not necessarily the same as the definition of a person “P” for penalty purposes, as defined in the relevant schedules of recent Finance Acts, for example FA07/Sch24. For further guidance about which person or persons within an organisation have the protection of Article 6 rights, and must be given the HRA message before we discuss penalties, see CH300550.

CH300600 explains how to tell the person about their rights.

CH300900 explains the message you must issue when you have reason to believe that a penalty may be due.