Inland Revenue formal powers

The more commonly encountered ones are:

S.20 (1) power to call for documents from those under investigation

S.20 (3) power to call for documents from a third party concerning a named person under investigation

S.20 (8A) power to call for documents from a third party concerning un-named person(s)/classes of people under investigation

S.20 A powers to call for papers of a tax accountant

S.20 B restrictions on powers under ss20 and 20A

S.20 BA orders for the delivery of documents

S.20 C entry with warrant to obtain documents

If you would like to discuss section 20 TMA 1970 with one of our tax investigation specialists, please click here.


The Inland Revenue has entirely new powers under the self-assessment regime. These powers are in addition to, not instead of, its existing powers under S.20 TMA 1970.

The principle powers that will be encountered in self-assessment enquiries are:

S.19A TMA 1970 ‘Power to call for documents for purposes of certain enquiries’ (income tax)

Schedule 18 Paragraph 27 FA 1998 ‘Notice to produce documents, etc for purposes of enquiry’ (corporation tax)

The Inland Revenue officer will make an informal request for documents and/or information and will only use formal powers if that original request is not complied with. Some key issues concerning the use of these powers are:

i) The documents and/or information requested must be relevant to checking that the Return is correct;

ii) At least 30 days must be allowed for the production of the requested details;

iii) The officer dealing with the enquiry may issue the notice. It need not be the Commissioners, or even an Inspector;

iv) The officer may not use these powers to:

a) demand a meeting;

b) gain access to premises;

c) obtain information from a third party;

d) obtain information relevant to a period other than that to which the return under enquiry relates.

v) There is a right of appeal, which should be made in writing to the officer who issued the notice within 30 days, specifying either:

a) why it is considered that the information is not relevant;

b) that the documents requested are not held and cannot be obtained (the documents must be ‘in the taxpayers possession or power’); or

c) that more time is needed.

For information concerning requests for private financial information click here.

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