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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Operational Guidance

Our Conduct and Behaviour: establishing how many officers should carry out a visit

Your safety is the most important consideration. If you are concerned that there is a risk to your safety in visiting particular premises alone you should first carry out a risk assessment and discuss with your manager the most appropriate actions in order to mitigate the risk. If this involves taking a colleague then you should do so.

Before an unannounced inspection you and your manager must carry out a health and safety risk assessment. All unannounced inspections must be carried out by at least two caseworkers where there has been no previous HMRC contact with the business, such as a business in the hidden economy. This does not apply where there has been previous contact with the business, such as when the business is already VAT registered.

If there is a risk to your safety even where accompanied by a colleague, you should consider alternatives to an inspection visit. For further guidance on personal safety, see HR62040 and COG11500.

There are a number of factors you should consider when you decide how many officers should carry out an inspection visit. Risks that you should take into consideration include:

  • whether the inspection visit is announced or unannounced
  • whether there has been no previous HMRC contact with the business
  • where the premises are in a particularly isolated location
  • where previous officers have recorded safety concerns.

Other factors to consider

The number of officers taking part in an inspection visit must not be disproportionate. There is a risk that where more than one officer arrives to visit an individual or a small business, the person may perceive this as intimidating.

HMRC has challenging targets for compliance revenue, and we all have a duty to work efficiently. Time that colleagues spend assisting you is time that they cannot spend working on their own cases, and you should take this into consideration.

If your case is particularly complex or contentious, then it may be appropriate for a colleague to accompany you and take notes. This allows you to concentrate on the case while still keeping a comprehensive record, which you may need later in the case or at appeal.

Similarly, if your case requires you to look through a large volume of records on the premises, you may take a colleague to assist in this. This will reduce the amount of time you need to spend on the premises.

If your case requires specific expertise, you may need a specialist colleague to accompany you.

In all cases, if you experience, threatening, inappropriate or abusive behaviours you should leave the premises immediately and report the facts to your manager.

Previously officers checking certain taxes were required to take a colleague when visiting a private home. This is no longer a requirement. Instead you must base your judgement on whether to take a colleague on the factors set out above.

If you are not sure how many officers are appropriate for your inspection visit, you should discuss this with your manager.

For further guidance on Lone Working, see HR5128.