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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Agent operational guidance: dishonest tax agents: getting access to an agent's files: reviewing an agent’s files

When a document is produced you can take a copy of it or make an extract from it, see CH182980.

You can only keep the document for a reasonable period. This is the minimum period needed for you to complete the tasks for which it was removed, see CH182990.

You must treat any data given to you in line with current data security guidelines.

The purpose of reviewing the tax agent’s files is to establish the full extent of the tax agent’s dishonest conduct and the tax lost, or potential tax loss. However, you can use the information you get from the documents for any lawful purpose.

If you have referred your case to the Commissioners’ Advisory Accountant (CAA) you must tell the CAA team about your review of the agent’s files, see CH881600.

If money laundering issues arise, or you have already reported an agent to Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (AMLS), see CH881150.

It is an offence to conceal documents from HMRC in relation to conduct notices, see CH182180, and file access notices, see CH183420. If, while reviewing an agent’s files, you become aware that documents have been concealed you must refer your case to Fraud Investigation Service through the Evasion Referral Process, see CH880400. Do not discuss penalties with the person who you suspect has committed the offence.

Where you suspect dishonesty in a tax agent’s personal returns, see CH883680.

When you carry out your review you may find that the extent of the dishonest conduct is wider than the evidence contained in the conduct notice. This may be because you have found another and different act of dishonesty, or because the tax lost is far more significant than at first thought.

Example 1

You gather evidence of dishonest conduct relating to repayment claims for a particular group of a tax agent’s clients. The evidence you gather is summarised on the conduct notice and a file access notice is issued for documents relating to this dishonest conduct.

When you examine the agent’s files you find evidence of dishonest conduct relating to false claims for capital allowances that suppress the profits of a different group of the agent’s clients. This is a distinct and different act of dishonesty from that established by the issue of the conduct notice.

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Example 2

You gather evidence of dishonest conduct relating to one large client dealt with by a partner in a firm of solicitors. When you come to examine the partner’s files you find that the dishonest conduct affects many of the partner’s clients and that the suspected tax lost is much greater than set out in the conduct notice.

In examples 1 and 2 you must refer your case to Fraud Investigation Service using the Evasion Referral Process, see CH880400.

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Example 3

You gather evidence of dishonest conduct by a tax agent who is a sole practitioner. On reviewing the practitioner’s files you find that another tax agent, working as a sub-contractor, has been closely involved with the dishonesty. You will need to consider an approach to this sub-contractor with a view to issuing them with a conduct notice.