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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

Penalty notice: considering whether to issue a penalty notice: checking whether we are within time limits for a penalty

A penalty may not be issued

  • more than three years after the contravention took place
  • more than two years after HMRC have sufficient evidence of facts to issue it.

A penalty notice has to satisfy both time limits.

So there are two dates for you to establish.

  • When did the contravention take place
  • When did we have sufficient evidence of facts to issue a penalty

Once you have identified the dates for the contravention, you can consider whether we are within the time limits to issue a penalty.

You should be mindful of these time limits so as to make sure that you refer any appropriate cases

  • for advice from CITEX CCP Network or
  • for approval by a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM)

in good time.

A CPO, CRM or Compliance Manager should be mindful of these time limits so that there remains time for penalty action to be completed.

If either of the time limits has been passed, we cannot issue a penalty. However, you should bring the detail of these contraventions to the trader’s attention and advise them of the corrective action they need to take to make sure similar contraventions do not happen in future. You should then confirm this in a letter of written instruction.