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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Agent operational guidance: dishonest tax agents: getting access to an agent’s files: file access notice: what can we ask for

You can ask a person who is a document-holder to provide relevant documents.

‘Relevant documents’ are explained at CH182600 and there are examples at CH182620. These documents can be in electronic form, see CH23360.

Relevant documents do not include documents that belong to the agent’s clients, even if the agent has those documents in their possession. If you need documents or information from the tax agent’s clients you must use information powers under FA08/SCH36 as part of a compliance check.

You will normally have discussed with the document-holder what it is you want to see before you prepare the file access notice, see CH882300. Consequently, you must be able to specify as clearly as possible the documents you require, and the periods and clients to which they relate.

You must specify identifiable documents if you can. If you cannot specify, you should describe as clearly and as narrowly as possible the documents you want.

You must then give the tax agent and, where different, the third party document-holder an opportunity to make representations to HMRC and to the tribunal.

What you ask for in the file access notice must not be different from what you ask for in the opportunity letter, see CH882530.

The notice cannot be issued until the tribunal has given its approval. An authorised officer must either apply to the tribunal to get its approval, or agree to another specialist officer within the Agent Compliance Team (ACT) making the application, see CH882700.

There are restrictions on what you can ask for; these are listed at CH182700. You may have reason to dispute a person’s claim that documents required by a file access notice are protected by legal professional privilege. There is guidance about the processes to resolve such disputes at CH230000.