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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Operational Guidance

Our Conduct and Behaviour: customer service to disabled people: how to help: reasonable adjustments

Wherever a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to a non-disabled person, we must make reasonable adjustments.

The Equality Act 2010 says that a substantial disadvantage is one which is more than minor or trivial. It is a limitation beyond the normal differences that exist between people. See COG11250 for more information on the Equality Act 2010 and COG11340 for case studies to help you understand what is meant by a substantial disadvantage. If a substantial disadvantage does exist then you must make reasonable adjustments. The aim of the adjustments you make is to remove or reduce the substantial disadvantage.

Once a person has explained that they have a disability you will agree any reasonable adjustments they require and include a timetable for key stages of any compliance work.

You would not normally question the adjustments providing they are reasonable and allow you to progress your compliance check. If you do not think the adjustments are reasonable you should ask how they will help the person participate in the compliance check.

The following are examples of reasonable adjustments you may be asked to make.

  • Consider the person’s needs when arranging meetings; checking suitability of time, date and location.
  • Fully explain your meeting structure and content in advance, and then again immediately before commencement, and avoid covering too much in a single meeting.
  • Give the person more time to make decisions.
  • Provide clear and timely information and aim to ensure that people arrive at a meeting as unstressed as possible.
  • Remove any sources of stress - for example, noise or flashing lights.

How you manage to progress your compliance check will largely depend on agreeing the reasonable adjustments you need to make. If despite agreeing reasonable adjustments the person, or their agent, does not attend any planned meeting or provide you with the information you need to carry out your compliance checks, then you should contact them again. You should ask them why they have not attended the meeting or provided the information you require and ask whether there are any other reasonable adjustments they would like you to make. If the taxpayer still does not attend any meetings, you should try and obtain the information by letter or telephone.

If the person has failed to provide information you have asked for, despite repeated attempts to contact them to discuss what you need and why, you should review your findings so far and decide whether you have enough information to either issue an assessment or amend the return and close your compliance check.(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

If you decide you need to continue with your compliance check and the person is unable to provide information or records and explains that this is as a result of their disability then you must ask for more information about the disability, such as

  • the date they first became ill or disabled,
  • how the disability has affected their ability to carry out normal day to day activities, and
  • how it has affected their ability to manage their tax affairs.

You may decide to ask them to provide evidence of their disability from their GP or another medical professional. For example, where the person has Alzheimer’s during the period you are checking there will be no point in using information powers if the person has no records, but you should use third party information powers where possible.

If the lack of records is not related to their disability explain that you will have to follow the usual formal procedure whilst still taking account of their impairment.