HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Opening the Enquiry: Communications: General

Just because there is an enquiry, the taxpayer must not be treated in any way differently from other taxpayers, even if omissions have been discovered or admitted. HMRC’s publication called “Your Charter” explains taxpayers’ general rights and obligations.

Inevitably it is more difficult to maintain good communication with a taxpayer throughout an enquiry. They may find some lines of questioning intrusive, resent the additional costs of the enquiry, deliberately delay matters to hold up settlement, cloud the facts to hide evidence of evasion and try to provoke you into losing your temper. To be successful you have to ensure that you retain control of the enquiry which can often require considerable perseverance to obtain information which you need.

You should

  • be courteous at all times. It is possible to be firm without being discourteous. If a question is avoided, simply repeat it or rephrase it
  • give the taxpayer relevant factsheets at the appropriate time, see EM1604a
  • explain why you are taking action such as raising assessments, issuing information notices etc. The taxpayer and agent should always know what is required of them. You must also ensure that the taxpayer is advised of their rights
  • set out your assumptions in any computation, or those you have needed to make in preparing, say, a business model
  • not presume or appear to presume that the taxpayer has committed an offence before you have evidence. Once you have discovered omissions or they have been admitted you must not adopt a moral or censorious tone, just deal with the facts
  • not make premature and peremptory demands for information or documents, or meetings, nor should you make routine reference to statutory powers until it becomes necessary to do so
  • not refer to estimated assessments, closure notices or appeal hearings simply in order to secure agreement to a settlement
  • try to avoid delay. Obviously it will take longer to deal with some aspects of a case than others and sometimes it will be impossible to avoid some delay. However, you should remember that delay will make it more difficult for you to encourage the taxpayer to respond quickly.

Where any disputes arise, or you reach an impasse, you should consider whether Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may help you and the taxpayer resolve these. See the ADR web pages for guidance about ADR.