All inspections of your business premises or of an involved third party must be carried out within one of two frameworks – announced and unannounced inspections. We can also apply to the tribunal for approval of an inspection – see RSTP2026.
When making contact with the occupier of the business premises to be inspected, we will make sure we are dealing with the right person or that the person we speak to has the authority to agree the inspection date and time.
The occupier can refuse to let us (or a person authorised by us) enter the premises (see RSTP2027).
An announced inspection is where the occupier of the premises to be inspected is informed of our intention to enter and inspect the premises before we arrive.
The majority of inspections will be announced visits. It will be unusual for a notice of inspection to be issued without contacting the business first. An inspection is an announced inspection even if it is not arranged by the officer who actually carries out the inspection.
The intention of making an announced inspection is to ensure that the people who we need to see, and the records and business assets to be inspected, are at the premises on the agreed day. This simplifies matters for everyone.
If the person receiving the inspection agrees to the time we suggest then there is no need to give any particular period of notice. This is especially useful for:
- large businesses where our presence on the site may cause very little disruption to the business going on; and
- inspections where you request a visit.
If it is not possible to agree an inspection time with the occupier, we must choose a reasonable time (see below) for the inspection and then give the occupier at least 7 days’ notice in writing of this time (although normally the notice will be longer). This written notice must state the possible consequences of obstructing us (or a person authorised by us) in the exercise of our inspection powers and, if the inspection has been approved by the tribunal (see RSTP2026), it must also state this.
Where the occupier of the premises is a company or other business, we must be satisfied that the written notice is given to (or where applicable the agreement to the inspection is given by) an appropriately senior person such as a director, site manager or partner.
If we arrange a document inspection visit we will consider whether to also issue an information notice (see RSTP2002). An information notice will ensure that you know what records should be produced at the inspection.
If we have reasonable grounds for believe that giving advance notice of an inspection would seriously prejudice the assessment or collection of tax, an inspection of your business premises or those of an involved third party may be carried out at any reasonable time (see below).
At the beginning of the inspection we must provide a written notice to:
- the occupier of the premises if they are present; or
- a person who appears to us to be in charge of the premises (such as the person who has the keys to the premises), if the occupier is not present.
If no such person is present, the written notice must be left in a prominent place on the premises. The written notice must state the possible consequences of obstructing us (or a person authorised by us) in the exercise of our inspection powers and, if the inspection has been approved by the tribunal (see RSTP2026), it must also state this.
We will, where possible, leave the notice in a prominent place on the premises. If for whatever reason it is not possible to do this the notice will be delivered to the occupier’s main postal business address.
Meaning of ‘reasonable time’
Unless the occupier whose premises are being inspected agrees to the time we have proposed for the inspection, all inspections of your business premises or those of an involved third party, including unannounced inspections, must be made at a reasonable time.
What is a ‘reasonable time’ for an inspection will vary between businesses but is generally one in which the premises are open for business or when staff are present. The vast majority of times proposed will be between 9am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, but other times are possible.
This does not prevent a visit:
- continuing past the time when the business normally shuts provided the person receiving the inspection agrees; or
- being made at night, if that is the normal opening time.
Most businesses should be able to accommodate a visit if they are given at least seven days’ notice. However, there may be good business reasons for delaying a visit for longer. We will listen to and consider carefully any representations made by you in that regard.
Leaving the premises
When we (or a person authorised by us) leave the premises we will tell the person receiving the inspection what will happen next. For example, that:
- we will return the next day to continue the inspection;
- we have finished the inspection and will write to them with the outcome; or
- we have finished the inspection and the enquiry will continue in other areas.