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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

Warning letter: considering whether to issue a warning letter: what is a warning letter

A Customs Penalty Warning Letter (CPWL)

  • sets out

    • when the intervention took place
    • the period covered by the intervention
    • the customs declarations examined
    • the contraventions identified, and
    • the legislation that has been breached
  • advises that on this occasion we have decided to issue a warning letter
  • advises that, should broadly similar contraventions occur within a 2 year period, we may issue a penalty notice
  • provides the corrective steps the trader must take to comply with the requirements of the law in future
  • may also, depending on the circumstances, allow a specified period of time during which we will not charge a penalty for broadly similar contraventions. This is to give them time to put steps in place to ensure compliance.

Two years after the warning letter is issued, its effect lapses. If there is a broadly similar contravention after this time, we consider the new contravention and our approach to it without reference to the earlier warning.

Compliance officers must use the Customs Penalty Action Checklist (CPAC), see CCPG26220, to decide whether to issue a warning letter. Their decision must be agreed by an authorising officer.