HMRC can open an investigation into your tax affairs at anytime, and can request to go back up to 20 years (although it is normally no later than 6 years). When you receive a letter stating HMRC are pending an investigation, it can be a very tense and stressful time even if you have done nothing wrong.
Investigations can occur for a variety of reasons. The most frequent is an obvious mistake that HMRC can see whilst looking through the information you have submitted to them. The mistake can be on any scale of seriousness so should not be taken lightly. If you spot a mistake and tell HMRC about it, they will still have to open an investigation still but it will be less severe and strict. Sometimes, a business selected for an investigation is totally random, HMRC will pick a few businesses in an area, maybe that are tax-fraud hotspots, just to make sure there is no tax evasion going on. HMRC are also the epitome of suspicious. If your sales figure has gone drastically up or down from one year to the next or are hugely different to the industry average, they will look into why this is.
The letter from HMRC will normally have clues on it as to why you are being investigated. It will also detail what direction the investigation will be taking. When you receive this letter, the emphasis is to act fast as if you do not have all the required information ready and at hand when the investigation starts, you will be seen as unorganised.
HMRC have the ability to request information from third-parties such as banks and other businesses. This is the extreme as normally they will look for co-operation, from the person being investigated, which will not only speed the whole process, but reduce any fines or penalties incurred. This can be just allowing them access to your files or it could be letting them interview you for a day. If you have made clear and obvious mistakes but do not allow HMRC access to your documents, the fine can be doubled, making it much worse for you.
The effect of not co-operating on your business is as follows:
The general trend is that it is at this stage people will go and ask for professional help. The best people to see are tax accountants such as Tax Affinity Accountants who can help in various ways with the investigation. Some are below:
Even when the investigation has finished, there is no guarantee that you will not be investigated again. If you were randomly investigated one year and then the next year your profit figure increased dramatically, you could well actually be at risk of being investigated again. HMRC will not take to kindly either if you have already been found to be responsible in a previous investigation and then continue to make mistakes in subsequent years.
This blog might seem all doom and gloom but regulations are in place for the amount of tax that should be paid by either businesses or individuals. HMRC just apply this regulation as it would be unfair for some people to get away with not paying enough tax. If you have done nothing wrong, or even make an innocent mistake, HMRC will not be aggressive or disruptive. If you co-operative with them, they will ensure the investigation is as pain free for you as possible.
A Tax Accountant’s expertise and experience will help you greatly both financially and emotionally. As the fees that you may have to pay will be far outweighed by the amount of tax saved in direct negotiations with HMRC.
They know what the situation is and what the next move by HMRC will probably be. This means that anything unusual going on by HMRC will be noticed and prevents you from submitting too much information or making the investigation drag on longer than it should. The key is to co-operate with both your Tax Accountant and HMRC so the investigation is over quickly and as
By Owen Cain at Tax Affinity Accountants
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