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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Operational Guidance

Supporting Guidance: employer compliance: guidance by subject: commencing the compliance check: effective questioning to establish culpability

Effective questioning should establish

  • the extent of
  • intent behind, and
  • who was responsible for

any inaccuracy and in turn establish behaviours see COG906110.

You should

  • be polite and confident
  • ask simple direct questions
  • ask ‘open’ questions to encourage more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer
  • listen carefully to replies
  • be prepared to repeat a question not fully answered and follow up answers with supplementary questions
  • challenge explanations which are improbable, inconsistent or at odds with the records or what has previously been said
  • remember employers/contractors are likely to answer questions in a way, which reflects the least possible blame on their part.

When questioning the employer/contractor it is important for you to keep an open mind. Even when there is evidence of something wrong there may be a satisfactory explanation. Your job is to obtain the facts, not to jump to conclusions.

You should

  • keep sight of the fact that most employers/contractors will be open and honest and
  • be prepared to listen to any explanation provided by the employer/contractor.

Full details of how culpability was explored must be recorded in the Notes of Meeting.

Some examples of answers (Word 32KB) which may be given in response to questioning and the consideration which should be applied.