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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Agent operational guidance: dishonest tax agents: getting access to an agent’s files: file access notice: compliance with the notice

A person given a file access notice must comply with the notice

  • within a specified period

and, if the notice specifies,

  • by certain means
  • in a particular form
  • to a particular person
  • to a particular place.

A person may comply with a notice by producing a copy of a document instead of the original, unless the notice specifically requires production of the original document. You must not request the original document unless you have reasonable grounds to do so, for example where detail on the copy is unclear or incomplete, or there is doubt about its authenticity.

It may be impractical for a person to produce an original electronic document for some storage types, for example an internal hard drive, and a copy of the information may be produced instead.

However it may not be sufficient for a person to produce a printed copy of a document held electronically. You can, if you have reasonable grounds to do so, make a written request to the person to produce the original electronic document or an electronic copy. You do this by requiring the document to be ‘in such form’ as is reasonably specified or described in the notice.

In cases of difficulty, you must contact a Data Handling Specialist or an LB Audit Specialist, who specialise in such matters.

The recipient of the notice is liable to penalties for failure to comply with a notice, see CH883100.

Before you assess a penalty you should try to make contact with the recipient to find out why they have not complied. You should help them to comply, if you can.

If the recipient has complied with only part of the notice you should attempt to find out why not all the documents have been provided. The recipient may be having difficulty locating documents and requires more time.

If the recipient tells you that they cannot get the documents, or that a document does not exist and you are satisfied that the claim is genuine, you must set aside that part of the notice.

You can give the recipient more time to comply with the notice if there are good reasons to do so.

You must follow-up in writing an agreement for more time, setting out clearly the new date by which the recipient must comply.