HMRC Unannounced Visits

  • We are seeing a large increase in the number of unannounced site visits being carried out by HMRC. They have the right to turn up at any time they feel is reasonable, even if you have a lot of customers present.
  • Even if your business premises are also your home, they still have the right to make an unannounced visit.
  • Once given access, they are allowed to inspect all business assets and documents.
  • When HMRC officers arrive, they must show valid ID, provide the inspection notice and factsheet and they must explain the reason for the visit.
  • They should advise that you are allowed to call your agent (accountant), but we’ve found that this does not always happen.
  • HMRC are NOT ALLOWED to force access or use clandestine means to gain entry.
  • HMRC are NOT ALLOWED to interview business owners or their staff if you do not give permission.
  • HMRC can ask you to cash up if it is a reasonable time for you to do so, but they are not allowed to make you do so. If you would ordinarily put the cash in a secure location and cash up the following morning, they cannot make you do it whilst they are present.
  • There are two types of visit: a) Officer Authorised and b) Tribunal Authorised.
  • If the visit is Tribunal Authorised and you refuse access, even to get an agent involved, you will face a £300 fine plus further fines of £60 per day of non-compliance. These fines are NOT subject to a right of appeal.


Our Recommendations

  1. In advance, identify an area that HMRC can use which would minimise the impact on your customers and business in general.
  2. Ask all of the officers to present their HMRC IDs.
  3. Remain calm and ask to review the inspection notice before allowing HMRC to proceed. The notice should state who the attendees are and it also should state who authorised the visit. It should also be signed and dated.
  4. If it is unclear from the notice, confirm whether the visit was authorised by an officer of HMRC or by a Tribunal.
  5. Consider your next move, whether or not you will allow immediate access or if you will refuse. Bear in mind that refusing a Tribunal Authorised visit will incur penalties as stated above.
  6. Remember that during an Officer Authorised visit, if you start feeling uncomfortable or you feel that HMRC are overstepping their boundaries, you can ask them to leave at any time, stating that you feel it would be best to have your agent present.

Lastly, we recommend that whether or not you choose to allow HMRC’s visit to proceed, you contact us and let us know what is going on. If the visit occurs during our office hours and you would like us to be present, we should be able to arrange this. If we are closed during the visit, leave us a message anyway, so that we can best advise you upon our return.

If you wish to discuss this further, please speak to your usual contact.