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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Partnerships: Approach to SA Enquiries: Full Enquiries

In the case of a partnership you may find that the returns of the partnership and the partners are filed at widely different times. You may find that you have different enquiry windows for the partnership and for some or all of the partners.

Before beginning a partnership enquiry you should ensure that you have thoroughly reviewed the partnership file including its obligations as an employer and current year’s return and that you have identified all the areas of risk which you intend to address.

Do not be in a hurry to open your enquiry. You will need to ensure that you have prepared your enquiry plan before any approach is made to the partnership or the partners. The 12 month enquiry window should normally ensure that you are able to complete your review of all the returns you need for the partners as well as the partnership before your enquiry window closes.

You will need to ensure that any other office or person with an interest in the partnership/partners is aware of your proposed course of action and that you have obtained all information which they hold on the partnership or the partners which may be relevant to your enquiries. That includes reviewing the current returns of all the partners even when the files are held elsewhere. Files and technical responsibility for partners’ returns may not necessarily be where the returns are captured. For example London retains technical responsibility (and some files) for its residents although capture is done throughout the country. In addition under Working without Files procedures you may need to contact yet another office to retrieve the physical return.

Once you have decided that it is likely that you will undertake a full partnership enquiry you will need to consider whether it would be better to have the files of any partner dealt with elsewhere transferred to your office on loan (or permanently), or whether the existing office is best placed to handle matters relating to that partner. The particular circumstances of the case will determine the best approach.

As you will be running several separate enquiries concurrently, the case is likely to be complicated and time-consuming. You may be working your case in association with colleagues in your own and/or different offices. It is therefore essential that you have a detailed plan of what needs to be done, when and by whom, and that you react quickly and positively to developments.

If you are responsible for the partnership it will be far easier to conduct a full enquiry if, as well as issuing your Section 12AC notice in respect of the partnership return, you, or the responsible office, are able to issue Section 9A notices to each partner. If an enquiry has already been opened and closed in respect of any partner’s return your job will be made far more difficult. You should therefore make sure, as far as possible, that you will not subsequently need to open a full enquiry into the partnership return for the year before you give your agreement to the issue of a Section 9A notice to any partner for the same year.