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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Information Powers: TMA70/S20: Accountant's Working Papers: Formal Procedures

Review of Case

If you consider that the formal procedures should be used, make a report to your compliance manager giving

  • the background to the enquiry
  • the reason why you want access to the working papers and
  • an account of your efforts to get the required information from other sources and to persuade the accountant to give voluntary access.

If the investigation manager decides that formal action is required, he should refer the papers to an authorised officer.


An authorised officer should consider whether the information requested is necessary to advance the case and whether it might be obtained by other means. They should only give approval for the use of formal powers if they are satisfied that all alternative avenues have been explored.

The formal procedures should not be commenced without prior written approval.


If the use of S20(3) is approved, follow EM10117+ adapting the specimen letter EM10155 as necessary.

Unnamed Taxpayer

For a notice under TMA70/S20 (8A) in respect of an unnamed taxpayer or taxpayers, the protection given to audit papers and tax advice is removed in respect of any information contained in the papers giving the identity or address of any of the unnamed taxpayers or of any person who acted on his behalf. If any case comes to your attention where it appears that use of this information power could be worthwhile send a brief report

  • where avoidance is involved - to Anti Avoidance Group.
  • in other cases - to Specialist Investigations.

Documents Already Delivered

Audit papers or relevant communications which also contain `linking’ information are protected by TMA70/S20B(13), if that information is contained in some other document and either

  • that other document, or a copy of it, has been delivered to the officer or HMRC or
  • that other document has been inspected by an Officer of HMRC.

If a claim is made that the required information is contained in other documents which have already been delivered to or inspected by HMRC, ascertain to whom the documents were delivered or by whom they were inspected and obtain copies or extracts. If you are unable to verify that the documents were, in fact, delivered or inspected submit your file, with a brief report before you start formal procedures, to contact link.

If you encounter difficulties in examining working papers in more complex cases you can seek assistance from Specialist Investigations.