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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Working the Enquiry: Keeping Control: Avoiding HMRC Delay

Unnecessary delay by HMRC in working an enquiry will make it much more difficult for you

  • to resist an application for a direction for closure EM1975+
  • to move things along if the taxpayer or agent is not co-operating
  • to support the imposition of penalties EM1360 .

Not only is it embarrassing if the Department appears to be trying to enforce higher standards than it has shown itself but it may leave you open to justified complaint and could result in penalty abandonment.

The minimum window for making enquiries into SA returns should enable you to plan your annual cycle of work so that

  • you only open the enquiry when you are in a position to deal with it thoroughly and efficiently
  • you deal with the information you obtain during an enquiry promptly.

Where you take up linked enquiries (such as into a company and its directors) you must maintain parallel progress in each of the enquiries. The intervention plan you prepare at the outset of the enquiry may include an estimate of the length of time it will take you to obtain and examine the relevant information. You must advise the taxpayer or agent the date by which (subject to revision in appropriate circumstances) you expect to have completed your examination of the records in suitable cases.

If you fall sick or another officer leaves the office and cannot be replaced immediately some delay cannot be avoided. Team-working arrangements should allow another member of the team to take over as case owner. But if no such arrangements exist whoever is looking after the enquiry on a temporary basis must at least notify the taxpayer or agent that there may be some delay.

Interest may be accruing on amounts of tax unpaid and it is important that HMRC delay should not seem to have contributed to the amount. If you do anticipate delay, and have already identified areas of the return which may be incorrect or incomplete, you must remind the taxpayer that interest is accruing and invite a general payment on account EM1935+.