Rules for all Notices
The following considerations affect all types of notices.
Place for Providing Documents
The officer can specify a place where documents must be produced but it must be reasonable and they cannot specify a place used solely for dwelling.
More usually, the place for producing the document will be assumed to be at the appropriate HMRC office or such other place as agreed between the officer and the taxpayer.
Copying and Removing Documents
The officer has the right to copy a document, take extracts from it or remove it for a reasonable time.
If documents are to be removed, it is recommended that a detailed receipt is requested from the officer when they are taken and that they are checked against this when returned so that there can be no dispute about whether or not they should be in the taxpayer’s possession.
Copies of Documents
When the notice requires the production of a document it will be satisfied by the production of a copy unless either:-
- The notice specifies that the original must be produced
- The officer later makes a written request for the production of the original.
When the original of a document is requested it must be produced within such a period, in such a way and at such a time as is reasonable.
The officer can specify the form in which the documents are to be produced, including electronic format if necessary.
Unless the information on a document is protected by a restriction on HMRC’s right to see it (for example audit information or tax advice), the officer has the right to see the whole document referred to in a notice.
However, where information is confidential and clearly has no bearing on the person’s tax position is blanked out, the officer will normally accept that the notice has been complied with.
Must be Specific
The notice must be focused and specific. It must be clear what it required and that what is required is reasonably required for checking the person’s tax position.
If the notice is too general or the information and documents clearly have relevance top checking the person’s tax position, it will be open to appeal on the grounds that:-
- It is asking for information that is not reasonably required
- It is unreasonably burdensome.
HMRC have assured Parliament that the information powers will not be used for speculative enquiries – ‘fishing expeditions’. This too should act as a restraint on notices being drawn up with unduly wide requirements.