A non-statutory clearance is a service whereby HMRC will give an answer on a point of legal uncertainty that is not clearly covered in HMRC’s guidance. It is important to note that written advice from HMRC is simply an opinion (HMRC is likely to walk away from it if it is wrong). A non-statutory clearance is still an opinion but it is an opinion that HMRC will not walk away from providing it is based on full and complete information.
Unless a taxpayer has a high level of professional expertise we would usually recommend that you use the services of a professional to obtain a non-statutory clearance. This should ensure that you address the key information requirements and structure your clearance in a way that maximises the likelihood that you will receive the answer that you want.
CVC advocates the non-statutory clearance system for the following reasons:
- it allows the questions to be carefully structured to avoid ambiguity;
- it prevents HMRC from declining to give an answer (a list of leaflets to read is a common response to most written enquires);
- it allows an unemotional decision to be made (if a VAT inspector believes he can raise a large assessment he is less likely to be objective than the clearance team);
- whilst no relevant facts can be hidden from HMRC (or the clearance will be invalid) it allows those relevant facts to be presented in a manner that is persuasive;
- we have never known HMRC raise retroactive assessments after giving a non-statutory clearance.