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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Information Powers: TMA70/S20: Falsification or Destruction of Documents


It is a criminal offence if a person intentionally falsifies, conceals, destroys or otherwise disposes of any document which he has been required to produce by

  • A Section 20 notice or
  • A Section 20A notice (tax accountants’ papers) or
  • Informal request under TMA70/S20B(1).

The provision also applies if the person to whom the notice or request is issued causes or allows someone else to falsify etc the document.

The penalty for the offence on a summary conviction is a fine of up to, the statutory maximum or on conviction by indictment in a higher Court imprisonment for up to two years and/or an unlimited fine.

A noticee is not regarded as having committed an offence if they act in relation to

  • informal requests and formal notices

    • after the request or notice has been fully complied with
    • with the written permission of a tribunal, or an officer of HMRC
  • informal requests after the earlier of

    • six months after the informal request was made
    • the refusal of consent for a notice
  • formal notices

    • two years after the issue of a notice unless an officer has previously notified the noticee in writing that the notice has not been complied with to their satisfaction.

Where, exceptionally, you consider that a noticee has committed an offence under the Section you should report the matter to Specialist Investigations. Advice should be sought on any request from the noticee to dispose of relevant documents - see contact link.