Enquiries, penalties and debt

Updated on 15 April 2019


If you are the subject of an enquiry by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) you have rights and must be treated fairly. On this page we provide some basic information on enquiries and explain where you can find more information.

Basic information on enquiries

An enquiry, which may also be called  an investigation, an intervention or a check is the mechanism by which HMRC may scrutinise your income tax or tax credits affairs. Basically it means that HMRC will ask you some questions and possibly look at some of the documents you have used or will use to complete your tax return or tax credits claim. 

There is more information in the tax basics section on the following topics:

  • the difference between an aspect and a full enquiry;
  • why HMRC may choose to open an enquiry;
  • your rights in an enquiry;
  • stand-alone Self Assessment enquiries;
  • the information you may be asked to provide;
  • discovery assessments;
  • stand-alone tax credits enquiries.

There is also information on how to survive an enquiry by HMRC.

There is information on particular issues that you might face if you are self-employed in the pages Enquiries in more detail.

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Paying tax at the end of an enquiry

At the end of an enquiry there is often a payment due to HMRC which has been negotiated as part of the enquiry. It can be a fairly substantial sum in some cases, and so you may not have funds available to pay the amount due in one payment.

If you cannot afford to pay your tax, you may be able to negotiate with HMRC, so that you can pay by instalments.

It is important to approach the HMRC officer dealing with the enquiry as soon as possible about payment arrangements.

There is more information in the tax basics section.

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There is information on the kinds of penalty that HMRC can charge you, either for missing a deadline or for making an error, in the tax basics section.

There is information on particular issues that you might face if you are self-employed in the page What penalties might I be given?.

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