HMRC have launched a new call for evidence ‘The Tax Administration Framework Review: enquiry and assessment powers, penalties, safeguards’. This explores wide-ranging possibilities for reform, with an emphasis on simplification and modernisation.

Call for evidence


A Previous call for evidence identified support for simplifying the tax administration framework; the policies, legislation, and guidance that underpins HMRC’s ability to administer taxes and duties effectively.

Building on that, HMRC have published a further call for evidence focusing on enquiry and assessment powers, penalties, and safeguards.

The government believes there is potential for simplification and modernisation in these areas which will result in greater certainty and consistency, strengthening compliance and increasing trust in the tax system.

Enquiry and assessment powers

HMRC have a number of enquiry and assessment powers to check and correct the accuracy of information provided by taxpayers. 

These enquiry and assessment powers vary. For most direct taxes, HMRC may check returns or claims via an enquiry, whereas, for indirect taxes, HMRC address non-compliance by raising assessments within certain time limits. Assessments may also be used where an enquiry window has passed.

A total of six reformation opportunities are identified in this area. These include:

  • Replacing current enquiry and assessment powers with a single set of powers, applying across all taxes.
  • Aligning HMRC’s powers across all regimes and addressing gaps such as those which lead to HMRC opening protective enquiries.
  • Suspending time limits for consequential amendments, to enable the tax consequences of non-compliance to be corrected across all affected periods and tax regimes.
  • Adopting a simpler, strict time limit approach for assessments, rather than conditions which relate to HMRC’s knowledge of the facts.


Where taxpayers do not meet their obligations under the tax system, they may be charged penalties. Penalties seek to encourage compliance and punish non-compliance.

Ten possible opportunities for reform are considered by the call for evidence, including: 

  • Aligning penalties across tax regimes, for example, for Late submission, Late payment, and Inaccuracy.
  • Simplifying penalties, for example by calculating inaccuracy penalties without a Behavioural element, focusing only on cooperation and past compliance.
  • Reforming the use of penalty suspension, for example by applying suspension automatically without conditions for the first non-deliberate or careless failure, subject to a 4-year good compliance period.
  • Establishing proportional fixed penalties that rise with income, resources, or tax liability.
  • Introducing escalating penalties for continued or repeated non-compliance.


Safeguards protect the interests of taxpayers by ensuring they are treated fairly and in accordance with the law. Potential reform considered by the call for evidence covers six areas. These include:

  • Aligning how appeals are made between direct and indirect taxes, and aligning payment requirements. 
  • Improving access to Alternative Dispute Resolution and Statutory reviews, for example, by recommending taxpayers pursue these routes before an appeal to a tribunal.
  • Mandating statutory reviews in certain cases, such as for late filing penalties, or where the tax in dispute is under £10,000.
  • Withdrawing the option of statutory reviews such as where there are no reasonable grounds for appeal or where the dispute involves an avoidance arrangement.
  • Introducing alternative channels to lodge and manage appeals, for example, digitally.

The call for evidence closes on 9 May 2024. Responses may be sent by e-mail, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Useful guides on this topic

Discovery Assessments
When can HMRC issue an assessment outside of the normal statutory time limits? What conditions must be met? Can HMRC issue two alternative assessments for the same period? What are your rights of appeal and defences?

Penalties: Errors in Returns and Documents (subscriber version)
What penalties apply if you make an error or mistake? Is there a penalty if you fail to tell HMRC about an under-assessment? How are penalties calculated? How do you check penalties? What can you do if you receive a penalty? 

Statutory Review (by HMRC)
What is a Statutory Review? When does HMRC offer a Statutory Review? Is it automatic? What happens in a Statutory Review? Can you challenge a Statutory Review's findings? Can you influence a Statutory Review? When does HMRC offer a Statutory Review?

How to appeal an HMRC decision
Disagree with an HMRC decision? How do you appeal, what type of decision can you appeal and what are your different options when you disagree with HMRC? What are the key steps in making an appeal?

Client guide: Reasonable care and tax penalties
What triggers a tax penalty? What standard of care is expected from a taxpayer? What is reasonable care? When is an error careless?

External link

HMRC call for evidence: The Tax Administration Framework Review: enquiry and assessment powers, penalties, safeguards