In Alexander Revell v HMRC [2016] UKFTT TC04887 the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) decided that an enquiry into an unsolicited Tax Return was not valid.

  • HMRC issued a Tax Return for 2008/09 to Mr Revell in September 2012.
  • It was sent to an old address of Mr Revell’s and not, as it should have been, the address on his latest P60.
  • Mr Revell did not receive the Return, and in February 2014 HMRC issued a notice of determination to collect an underpayment of tax.
  • Mr Revell submitted a Return in March 2014 in order to displace the determination.
  • HMRC then opened an enquiry into this Return and issued a closure notice to collect the underpayment.

Mr Revell appealed, arguing that:

  • HMRC could not open an enquiry as no valid request to file a Tax Return had been made.
  • The closure notice was therefore invalid.

The FTT agreed that the request to deliver a self-assessment Return had not been validly made as it was sent to an address which was no longer Mr Revell’s usual or last known place of residence, as required by s115 TMA 1970.

HMRC’s policy is to treat an unsolicited Return as if it was filed in response to a notice to make a return, and that by filing a Return the taxpayer has waived the requirement for a notice under s8 TMA 1970.

The FTT found that:

  • There is no legal basis for HMRC’s position that in making an unsolicited Return the taxpayer has waived the notice requirement.
  • There is no legal basis for issuing a determination: s28C TMA 1970 indicates that one can only be issued when a notice has been given under s8.
  • The notice of enquiry and the closure notice were both invalid, and the assessment to income tax for 2008/09 must be discharged.

The tribunal found that the submission of an unsolicited Tax Return should be treated as a notice of liability to income tax under s7 TMA 1970.  


Once submitted, HMRC have four years from the end of the tax year that it relates to issue a valid notice which would allow them to open an enquiry into the Return.

If the four year time limit in s34 TMA 1970 has passed, the only option open to HMRC is to make a discovery assessment if the conditions in s29 are met.

HMRC received criticism from the FTT for their handling of Mr Revell’s tax affairs, saying “HMRC’s written submissions on this issue are very brief and continue to display the lack of rigour which has characterised their conduct of this matter. Their submissions contain no analysis of the legislative provisions concerned and refer to no direct authority on the point.”


Case reference Alexander Revell v HMRC [2016] UKFTT TC04887