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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Information Powers: TMA70/S20: Preparatory Work before Seeking Consent from a Commissioner



Consent is given, ex-parte, by a single Commissioner who must be satisfied the officer is justified in proceeding. But see EM10104 in respect of un-named taxpayers.

Officers should normally seek consent from a General Commissioner. Where, exceptionally, it is desired to seek consent from a Special Commissioner, a report, with the file, should be made to contact link before an application is made.

A detailed typed brief EM10112 and the relevant forms should be prepared prior to the meeting.

Although notices under Section 20(1) or 20(3) must be signed by an authorised officer, it is not essential for that officer to present the case when consent is being sought from a Commissioner. He should however attend the hearing.

If it becomes necessary to issue a formal notice, this must require no more than the documents or particulars referred to in the informal request letter. It is good practice to draft the formal notice before issuing the informal request.

Forms appropriate to the exercise of Section 20 powers by authorised officers are

Form 83 Section 20(1) notice
Form 83A Section 20(3) notice

Normally forms 83 and 83A should be prepared in triplicate, one copy being retained in the taxpayer’s file and another by the Commissioner granting consent.

The person to whom a notice is addressed under TMA70/Section 20(3) may deliver the documents or he may elect to comply by making them available, for example, at his own premises, to a named officer of HMRC. This person has to be named in the notice and normally he will be a member of the issuing office’s staff. Where, however, the notice is being sent to an address beyond reasonable travelling distance of that office and the nature of the documents requested, or any previous correspondence or communication with the addressees suggests that an election to make books available will be made, the issuing office should make arrangements with an office more conveniently situated so that a person from that office may examine the documents and that officer’s name should be inserted on the Section 20(3) notice prior to issue.

The minimum time allowed for compliance with a Section 20 notice is 30 days running from midnight on the date of the notice. In practice you should allow 30 days from date of receipt EM1506. You should take into account the particular circumstances of each case and allow longer if for example, extensive particulars need to be compiled.

The address to which notices are to be served is governed by TMA70/Section 115. Where there is more than one place of business, notices should normally be served at the principal place of business. Where the required documents are thought to be held at another business address of the concern, the notice should be sent there. For notices on companies see S115(2) and S108.

A written summary of the officer’s reasons for applying for consent has to be sent to the taxpayer unless the Commissioner specifically directs otherwise EM10113.