This is a freeview 'At a glance' guide to penalties for Tax Agents found guilty of Dishonest Conduct.

Finance Act 2012 introduced legislation for Tax Agents: Dishonest conduct. It provides HMRC with powers to enable HMRC to investigate agents who are engaged in dishonest conduct and assess penalties.

At a glance

HMRC may charge tax penalties for tax agents found guilty of dishonest conduct where an agent's behaviour results in a loss of tax.

The rules:

HMRC may:

Who is a tax agent?

A tax agent is an individual who, in the course of business, assists other persons (clients) with their tax affairs.

An individual can be a tax agent even if they or the organisations for which they work are appointed:

a) indirectly, or

b) at the request of someone other than the client.

Assistance with a client’s tax affairs includes:

Assistance given for non-tax purposes will be counted as being for tax purposes if it is given in the knowledge that it will be, or is likely to be, used by a client in connection with the client’s tax affairs.

What is “dishonest conduct”?

Doing something dishonest with a view to bringing about a loss of tax revenue.

It does not matter whether:

A loss of tax arises from tax evasion, including:

“Doing something dishonest” includes:

Establishing dishonest conduct and appeal

Power to obtain a tax agent’s files 

An agent’s files include working papers and any other documents received, created, prepared or used by the tax agent for the purposes of or in the course of assisting clients with their tax affairs. 

The tribunal may approve a 'file access notice' which requests a document holder to disclose documents in their possession or power, following:

Where a document-holder is other than a tax agent, they have 30 days to appeal against a file access notice.

Penalties: file access

Failure to comply with a file access notice: £200, followed by £60 per day.

The defence of 'reasonable excuse' applies in the case of failure to supply information.

Penalties: dishonest conduct 

HMRC has flexibility, it may reduce a penalty, stay a penalty or agree a compromise. 


Double jeopardy

A person is not liable to any penalty for dishonest conduct in respect of anything for which they have been convicted of an offence.

A person is not liable to a penalty for dishonest conduct in respect of anything for which the person is personally liable to a penalty under:


In Colin Rodgers v HMRC [2018] TC06617, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) dismissed the tax adviser's appeal against a Conduct Notice. The agent admitted helping his client reduce his VAT and Income Tax liabilities by creating false purchase invoices.


Measures introduced Finance Act 2012.

HMRC published a new discussion document on "Working with Tax Agents: Dishonest Conduct" in July 2011. The consultation ended in September 2011.

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