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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Charging penalties: establishing penalty behaviour: planning what questions to ask: inaccuracies

Often, when you have found an inaccuracy and quantified the potential lost revenue, you will already have sufficient, if not all, of the evidence you need to decide whether the inaccuracy was a mistake despite taking reasonable care, or if it was the result of a failure to take reasonable care.

In less straightforward inaccuracy cases, involving potentially deliberate or deliberate with concealment behaviour, you will need to ask the person for further information, to obtain evidence for a decision on penalty behaviour.

When you intend to put the questions to the person in a face to face meeting, you should prepare the questions in advance so that you are clear on the facts that you need to establish and to make sure you do not forget to ask anything important during the meeting.

It is good practice to start by establishing important basic facts which will prevent later disagreements about how and why the inaccuracy happened.

You can put your view to the person at the end of the check after getting approval if necessary, see CH407000 and CH408000.


A business uses an accounting software package and in its Corporation Tax return has set against its profits an item of expenditure that it is not allowed to claim. You are told that the inaccuracy happened because the bookkeeper used an incorrect accounting code.

You may want to ask questions about how experienced the bookkeeper is in using the accounting software package and what instructions they were given about the expenditure and its accounting treatment.

You can find other examples of questions to establish behaviour at CH402301.

Before you ask the person about their behaviour, you must issue the HRA and penalty factsheets and explain the process to them, see CH402350.