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HMRC internal manual

Excise Civil Penalties Manual

The penalty process: How to assess

The appropriate person

The appropriate person to issue the penalty (the Issuing Officer) is either an officer who has discovered the contravention during a visit, or a local officer who has been notified about a contravention by the accounting centre, for example the failure to render a return and / or the failure to pay duty.

Preparation of the form

Penalties must be notified to the taxpayer on form EX601 (Officers assessment / civil penalty). The form will normally be completed manually by the Issuing Officer.

However, some accounting centres may automatically prepare the form for defaults occurring centrally e.g. failure to render a return and / or failure to pay duty. In these cases the prepared form will be sent to the local officer for consideration.

If a default is considered appropriate it should then be issued by the Issuing Officer


When the decision is made to issue a penalty, the Issuing Officer should sign the form.


The penalty form must be authorised by a line manager unless it is exceptionally issued ‘on the spot’ in the absence of a line manager, see ECP7800.

The second signatory should normally be at SO level but may be delegated to HO level if necessary. The second signatory should examine the penalty to ensure the officer’s discretion has been applied appropriately and consistently. They should also carry out the functions of the checking officer or ensure that they have been carried out by a third party.