Specify or Describe

FA 2008, Sch. 36, para. 6 (2) requires the officer to specify or describe the information or documents to be provided or produced.

An assurance was given in Parliament that the information powers would not be used for speculative enquiries – or ‘fishing expeditions’. This, and the need to avoid a notice being unreasonably burdensome so that it is invalid, means that the officer must frame his information request as tightly as possible.

As far as possible a notice should ‘specify’ the precise documents required, for example ‘the letter to X Bank dated 01/02/2015, 12/09/2015 and 15/11/2015’. If this is not possible, the notice should describe the documents required as closely as possible, for example ‘all correspondence with X Bank during 2015’.

Practitioners should always seek to ensure that the information or documents sought are needed to check the person’s tax position. They should not hesitate to challenge a notice that is so general that it requests irrelevant material and is therefore invalid due to it being unreasonable.

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