HMRC enquires during January: How to cope

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Isobel Clift
Senior Consultant in Tax Investigations
Gabelle LLP
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The run up to the 31 January self assessment deadline is stressful enough, with clients providing information at the eleventh hour and the myriad of other issues that may arise, without HMRC adding to the pressure by raising enquiries into your clients’ returns for a prior year.

It is worth bearing in mind that HMRC are also under pressure to ensure that enquiry window deadlines are not missed and this is why a large number of enquiry letters are issued at this time of year.

The time saving tips below should help you reduce the pressure during the tax return season...

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15th Jan 2014 12:46

Good sensible advice

Thanks Isobel.

Any thoughts on CG34 valuations disputes where a goodwill value offered is still not agreed prior to submission of the tax return - other than putting an explanatory note on the tax return itself.


Say hi to Vaughan from me 



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15th Jan 2014 13:49

Presumably HMRC enquires when it wishes to raise an enquiry; but given the enquiry deadline it seems likely that HMRC may raise more enquiries in January than in an average month.

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15th Jan 2014 16:24

Common sense prevails... HMRC it seems. When chatting to an inspector about an enquiry notice issued in late December, he was very aware of the January pressures we face - and very accomodating about deadlines.

Nice to see.

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15th Jan 2014 16:36

the answwer is to shorten the deadline by 2 months

or extend it by 1

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15th Jan 2014 16:54


I always just write a 2 liner and say "busy, will write to you in Feb" by the time they have actually opened the letter and read it the actual reply will have been issued in any case, so tough if they complain.  

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20th Jan 2014 11:05

Ask for extra time

Simply call the officer and request an extra 30 days or so becuase you can't respond due to the commitments of the 31 January deadline  Most are more than happy to agree to this.

Worst thing you can do is ignore the letter as HMRC are then likely to issue a Sch36 notice, which they seem to do now a lot quicker than they used to once the initial 30 day period is up and they haven't heard anything.

All they are doing is making sure they get the enquiry notice issued within the statutory period, they don't care too much if they have to wait a little longer for the response.

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20th Jan 2014 11:51

Deadline for Enquiry

Just checking that I understood correctly the time limit within which HMRC need to raise an enquiry.

If I submit my tax return for the year 2013-2014 on, say, September 10th 2014, does that mean that if HMRC wanted to enquire into that return, they would have to notify me by September 10th 2015, or by January 31st 2016?

Thanks, John

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20th Jan 2014 12:00

The notice has to arrive by

The notice has to arrive by 10th Septmeber as HMRC have to allow a certain number of working days for the letter to be sent.

So, if the letter was issued on say 6th or 7th September you could send back the enquiry notice as being late, unless HMRC have made a discovery which would allow them to raise an enquiry after this date. 

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20th Jan 2014 12:38

Thanks allsaintchris

That's interesting...

I received a letter from HMRC on January 8th 2009, stating that they intended to enquire into my 2006-2007 tax return, which I submitted in September 2007. So, it seems to me that HMRC should have sent the letter to me by September 2008 ... and not January 2009. I haven't heard from them since by-the-way, although I understand that they can sit on these things for years after they've sent out the enquiry letter.

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20th Jan 2014 13:36

Check 06/07 enquiry window, may be different to now

Back then in 06/07, I'm pretty sure (without looking up to double check when it changed) they had 12 months from the due filing date to enquire, it's only in the last couple of years it has become 12 months from the date the Return was actually filed.

I'm afraid I think HMRC were in time for that year.

Does seem strange they have sat on it, unless it was a protective enquiry against a scheme, EBT/EFurbs etc which they have sat on pending the outcome of tribunal hearings.



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20th Jan 2014 13:00


I was asked to do something by HMRC in order to get my client a refund that he is genuinely due. I wont go into it on here but their suggestion was illegal, wrong and stupid but they said unless I did this my client could not get a refund. Luckily I have all this in writing and also my written response saying why I didnt agree with what they were swaying, I was doing under duress and when this lead to an enquiry I would direct HMRC to this individual and all costs relating to it would be paid by hmrc and I was taking no responsibility. Surprise surprise this is now being the subject of an enquiry. I am waiting for the letter to arrive. In the midst of all this internal wrangling is a client almost going bust who has been waiting for this money since May last year. It is a substantial sum.I have never had a single client enquired into before so I am not that au fait with it. bearing in mind what I have said, what do you think will happen? Luckily I can prove everything in letters in both directions. 

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20th Jan 2014 13:39

Get assistance


If you are unsure, you should look to get specialist advice to help you on your way.  Is always better to get this at the start, as often I find I get involved half-way through an enquiry where the damage already done can be hard to rectify.

I can assist if you wish and would be happy to look at this for you if you would PM or email me with some more details about what has gone on.



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20th Jan 2014 15:24

HI, I think perhaps I worded my post badly. I am 100% confident of this case and totally in the right. My main worry was whether as this is going to highlight a serious blunder by HMRC whether they will acknowledge that and hold their hands up or whether they will try and waste time justifying their error. The fact they made a serious error is not up for debate and is backed up with correspondence. 

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20th Jan 2014 16:20

Reliance on HMRC

I guess then you're dealing with the old problem of whether you can rely on previous advice from HMRC!

With HMRC's general attitude on enquiries at the moment, I'd say dig your heels in as best you can. You've always got the the various review and appeal procedures you can use if you think HMRC are not playing ball.

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20th Jan 2014 17:07

Hi Chris, sorry I don't think I am explaining this very well. I am not relying on HMRC for advice. I am an experienced tax accountant of 30 years being told to do something stupid by someone who had no clue what they were doing. I have their request in writing and also my response saying I totally disagreed as it was wrong, illegal blah blah blah and that I was not going to be responsible for dealing with the obvious ensuing HMRC enquiry that would follow such stupid action, I then have more correspondence telling that I have to do this. So basically I feel like directing the enquirer back to the person (who I have the name of) who requested this as that is what I said I would do in writing at the outset. 

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