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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

Options for addressing a contravention: introduction

HMRC’s strategy is to encourage voluntary compliance.

Trader voluntarily discloses a contravention

Where a trader or their agent voluntarily discloses a contravention of customs provisions, without having been contacted by HMRC about their International Trade activity, we do not take Customs Civil Penalty (CCP) action but we may issue a letter of written instruction on the point. See Notice 301 para 3.2

HMRC finds a contravention

Once we have found a contravention of customs provisions we consider which approach has the best chance of achieving compliance by the trader in the future. The decision will be recorded on the CPAC and referred to a senior manager for their authorisation.

The options available are

  • Take no further action. If this was an isolated occurrence and the trader has a good compliance history, we may decide to take no further action. However, we would include the detail of the contravention identified in the post visit letter and set out the detail of the corrective steps they need to take to make sure a similar contravention does not occur again.
  • Where a process is new to the trader, we may provide education about the provisions and what they need to do to avoid contravening them again. We would confirm the detail of the education provided in the post visit letter or a letter of written instruction.
  • Issue a Civil Penalty Warning Letter (CPWL) to the trader to explain

    • that they have contravened a customs provision but
    • that we don’t propose to charge a penalty on this occasion but
    • that we will charge a penalty if they make a broadly similar contravention within the next two years
    • what we expect them to do so that they don’t make a similar contravention in future
  • Issue a penalty notice to the trader charging a penalty
  • Recommend the amendment or revocation of an authorisation.

We consider the facts of each situation carefully when deciding which approach has the best chance of achieving compliance in the future.

See CCPG23200 - CCPG23650 for more information on each of these options.

See CCPG24000 - CCPG28000 for detailed operational guidance on the points to be considered and the actions to be taken for each of these options.