HMRC May Not Open Enquiry into Voluntary Self-Assessment Return

27 April 2018
Author: JHA

The First-tier Tribunal (‘FTT’) has held in Patel v HMRC [2018] UKFTT 185 (5 April 2018) that a voluntarily submitted self-assessment return does not qualify as a return under section 8(1) of the Taxes Management Act 1970 (‘TMA’). Consequently, HMRC cannot open an enquiry into a voluntary return.

The appellants had completed paper tax returns as they had been unsuccessful in registering for online self-assessment. The returns were voluntary, meaning HMRC had not given the appellants notice under section 8(1) TMA requiring the delivery of such returns. Following amendments made by the appellants to the tax return so as to reduce tax liabilities, HMRC sent them notices of enquiry under section 9A TMA.

The FTT held that, on the wording of section 8 TMA, ‘a return under section 8’ plainly meant a return which the taxpayer had been ‘required by a notice given to him by an officer of the Board to make and deliver to the officer’. The words ‘may be required by a notice given to him’ confers a discretion on HMRC whether or not to issue a notice; for example, tax liabilities can be collected without such notice under the PAYE system. However, the fact that HMRC did not issue a notice did not mean a voluntary return became one under section 8 TMA. This conclusion could not be changed by applying the doctrine of purposive construction, as the words used by Parliament as well as its expressed intention were ‘entirely clear’. However, it was open to HMRC, on receipt of a voluntary return and within prescribed time limits, to issue a notice under section 8 TMA requiring the taxpayer to make a return (and effectively resubmit the voluntary return).


This article appears in the JHA April 2018 Tax Newsletter, which also features:


  1. German Ministry of Finance Guidance on Anti-Treaty Shopping Rule
  2. Slovak Emission Allowances Tax Breaches EU Law
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