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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Opening the Enquiry: Information Request: General

TMA70/S12B

TMA70/SCH1A/PARA 2A

FA98/SCH18/PARA 21

Enquiry work involves a mixture of research, risk assessment, records examination, discussion and correspondence. Once the facts have been established there will still be scope in many cases, particularly larger aspect enquiries, for discussion of technical issues, and, in many cases, this will inevitably involve correspondence.

Our approach should however put an emphasis on examining the records and establishing the facts before embarking on such discussion. You do not have to make out a prima facie case for there being a possible technical error before you can see the relevant evidence needed to establish the facts.

In your opening letter you should only request documents and information which

  • you reasonably require for the purposes of checking the accuracy of the return, and
  • you would be able to request later in an information notice under FA08/Sch36/Para1.

Taxpayers are required to keep such records as may be necessary to enable them to make a complete and correct return CH11200. You can ask in your initial letter for those records or, in an aspect enquiry, those of them that are relevant to the aspect you are enquiring into.

In preparing your opening letter you will have to make reasonable assumptions about what sort of records the return (or the aspect of it that you are enquiring into) would have been based on. In some cases you may have to establish what records the return was based on, what other records exist, and the nature of the different records, before you can specify precisely what information or documents you require.

There may also be records or documents which were not used as a basis for preparing the return but which may be relevant to the return. In your initial letter you can ask for any records which

  • you reasonably require for the purposes of checking the accuracy of the return, and
  • you would be able to request later in an information notice under FA08/Sch36/Para1.

You should always aim to cover all the worthwhile risks in your initial request, including relevant penalty risks, so as to avoid asking for information piecemeal. This does not mean that you will only have one occasion for requesting documents or information. You will frequently find that the submission of the documents or information initially requested will give rise to further questions. On each occasion your initial request should be informal. You should not normally issue an information notice unless the taxpayer or agent has failed to produce or provide some or all of the documents or information you have requested.

CH23540 explains in detail when you can use information and inspection powers to check the position of self-assessment taxpayers.