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HMRC internal manual

Pensions Tax Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
Updated
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About this manual: giving advice to customers

Contacting Pension Schemes Services
Requesting Technical Advice
HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) role
Advice in relation to past events
Advice in relation to future events
Complex transactions
Non-statutory clearances
Agents

Contacting Pension Schemes Services

Details on how to contact HMRC - Specialist Personal Tax - Pension Schemes Services can be found at Pension scheme enquiries.

Requesting Technical Advice

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC’s) role

HMRC’s duty is to explain how it considers tax law should be applied. This does not include giving advice to customers on how to arrange their affairs or commenting on hypothetical situations. The distinction is important.

Where a customer contacts HMRC with an enquiry that is covered in the published guidance then HMRC will respond by directing that customer to the relevant published guidance. Where the customer is contacting HMRC because they think that their query isn’t covered in the published guidance then the customer will need to consider HMRC’s non-statutory clearance process when submitting their enquiry (see Non-statutory clearances below).

In practice, a customer might, on making an apparently simple enquiry, omit some important relevant fact. This may not be deliberate, but arises because the customer is not aware that it is relevant to the claim for relief, or liability to tax. In addition, there may be interactions with other taxes, or financial, non-tax, implications.

HMRC should always find out as much as possible before giving customers a view or advice. Anyone attempting to give advice without knowledge of all the facts is at risk of giving misleading information. Every year a small number of claims where this has occurred are received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman) and the Adjudicator.

Guidance on when customers can rely on information or advice provided by HMRC can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/when-you-can-rely-on-information-or-advice-provided-by-hm-revenue-and-customs).

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Advice in relation to past events

HMRC are here to help customers understand their rights and obligations. This includes drawing attention to any deductions or reliefs, which seem to be clearly due but which may have been overlooked, and responding freely to requests for guidance on customers’ rights and liabilities and on making returns, claims to relief, etc.

If customers have specific enquiries about their own affairs, it may be necessary to respond to these in detail, by letter, rather than in general terms.

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Advice in relation to future events

HMRC can provide a response on events which are yet to happen, but it must be careful in doing so. It would be wholly inappropriate to advise on the tax implications of a transaction about to be carried out, other than in general terms and pointing the customer to the relevant guidance.

HMRC’s response should be, for example, that under the present law an allowance is due where certain conditions are met. HMRC should always accompany the answer with a clear statement that ‘whether the allowance would be given in the case in question will depend entirely on the law at the relevant time and on the precise facts’.

HMRC should go no further than that in attempting to deal with a taxpayer’s own affairs until they come to be examined in the normal way.

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Complex transactions

The more complex the transaction, the greater the need for the taxpayer to obtain professional advice from an advisor who can examine the particular circumstances closely and ensure that all the relevant considerations have been taken into account.

Advice should not be given where it appears that the enquirer is seeking assistance in finding a way around the straightforward interpretation or application of the statute in line with normal HMRC practice, or where the transaction contemplated is clearly designed to avoid or reduce the tax charge which might otherwise be expected to arise.

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Non-statutory clearances

HMRC operate a procedure for non-statutory clearances for customers. A non-statutory clearance is written confirmation of HMRC’s view of the application of tax law to a specific transaction or event that a customer can rely on in most circumstances.

Guidance on the procedure can be found in the Other Non-statutory Clearance Guidance. For details of how to submit a clearance application see the non-statutory clearance guidance.

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Agents

It is important when responding to customer enquiries that HMRC has the necessary authority to deal with an agent. It is also important that HMRC has authority from a member to respond to a pension scheme about a member’s tax affairs.

Guidance on authorising an agent can be found at Client authorisation: an overview.