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HMRC internal manual

Self Assessment Manual

Manage work: customer service: customer support

When providing support, you must ensure consistency of treatment between all customers for whom you are responsible.

You should assist customers by helping them to understand their rights, obligations and entitlements to reliefs and allowances, and by responding to requests for advice.

When answering customer queries, you should

  • Do your best to ensure customers are treated consistently
  • Aim to help customers understand their rights, obligations and entitlements to reliefs and allowances

When you receive enquiries, follow these basic rules

  • Help the customer as much as you can, consistent with the principles set out below
  • In many cases it will be possible to answer a query without reference to the customer’s records. Where necessary, use the SA view functions
  • Use the SA view functions by

    • Entering the Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) in the Reference field to access the particular customer record


    • Entering the national agent code in the Agent Identity field to access the particular agent record
  • Do not breach the security rules, you should satisfy yourself of the caller’s identity before discussing his or her tax affairs 
  • Aim to answer the enquiry at that time, rather than referring the customer to his or her own responsible office
  • If you do need to refer the enquiry to the responsible office, telephone that office yourself if possible, explaining the point at issue as clearly and concisely as possible
  • If the customer asks for help completing a form, for example a return, give it. Do not complete the form for the customer unless you judge that he or she is effectively incapable, for example because of infirmity or disability, of completing it
  • Aim to show the customer how to complete the form, guiding him or her through it step by step, even if this takes longer than completing it yourself. Make it clear to the customer that the contents of the return or form are his or her own responsibility, whatever help has been given
  • If a customer is seeking confirmation that a repayment or demand is correct the local office should make it clear that all they are checking is that the return has been correctly processed. They are not checking the accuracy of the customer’s entries on the return and HMRC will still have the right to enquire about this at a later date if they choose

‘Your Charter’

You need to be especially careful about situations in which you may risk giving misleading advice, helping with tax planning or binding HMRC without adequate information. You should make sure that you are familiar with ‘Your Charter’ which is aimed at individuals, businesses and any groups/organisations that have dealings with HMRC.

Specifically, do not 

  • Complete Standard Accounts or Balance Sheet information for the customer
  • Do calculations such as capital gains, business profits or capital allowances
  • Give an opinion about the customer’s

    • Eligibility to claim reliefs or expenses
    • Taxability of business receipts
    • Allowability of business deductions
  • Give an opinion in any other situation where you are in doubt
  • Comment on whether any transaction gives rise to a capital gain or loss or other tax liability
  • Comment on whether a transaction is revenue or capital
  • Suggest how losses should be used
  • Grant time to pay, unless you are qualified to do so

Where queries of this kind arise, you should consult a Higher Officer or your manager for advice.