HMRC Investigations: What to Expect

Whether you are the chief executive of a multi-million pound company or a small business owner, HMRC may open an investigation if they suspect false reporting or underpayment of tax.

Triggers

Reasons for you or your business drawing the attention of HMRC are:

  • HMRC receives a tip-off
  •  your business regularly receives payments in cash
  • tax returns are consistently filed late
  • you operate in a sector HMRC has specifically targeted
  • you are randomly selected
Taxes

The taxes investigated by HMRC include but are not limited to:

  • Income tax
  • Capital gains tax
  • Corporation tax
  • Landfill tax
  • National insurance
  • VAT
Stages

There are three levels of an investigation; random, aspect and full.

As above, HMRC have the ability to choose to investigate your business completely at random.

An aspect investigation means HMRC is concerned about a particular part (or parts) of your accounts. This could include something as straightforward as forgetting to include all of your savings income within your self-assessment tax return. An aspect investigation can be upscaled to full at the discretion of HMRC.

A full investigation is when HMRC considers there to be a significant risk of error in your tax return. This would include a comprehensive review of your records including personal finance records as well as business-related.

The process

1. HMRC will initially contact you via letter or phone call with a query. They will specify what information they require for the investigation.

2. You will be expected to supply the information HMRC require which may include obtaining replacement copies of documents if you no longer have them.

3. Informing HMRC at this point of any mistakes you have knowingly made will benefit you further down the line.

4. HMRC will formally begin their investigation

What happens next?

Some common resolution include:

Underpaid tax

You will have 30 days to settle the underpayment with HMRC.

Failure to do so will result in a penalty ranging from 20% to 100% of the extra tax due.

The severity of the penalty depends on whether the underpayment was due to a lack of reasonable care, a deliberate error or deliberate and concealed errors.

Overpaid tax

If you have paid too much tax, HMRC may send you a rebate through the post.

If they do not, you will need to make a claim for a repayment.

Deliberate wrongdoing

If HMRC believe you have committed fraud, you may be subject to criminal proceedings.

You may also be charged a penalty depending on why you underpaid tax, how soon you informed HMRC of any mistakes and whether you were fully co-operative during the investigation.

Resolution

A decision notice will arrive in the post explaining the assessment and any penalty details.

Alternatively, HMRC may issue a contract settlement which legally binds you to pay the money that is owed to HMRC.

Tips to avoid an investigation

Nothing can prevent a random investigation but the following tips will help you to avoid becoming under HMRC’s microscope.

  • Maintaining accurate records
  • Putting money aside to cover your tax bill and pay it on time
  • File your tax returns accurately
  • Explain any changes or unusual transactions from one year to the next

If you are under HMRC investigation or have any questions please contact us via the contact form below or call us on 01254 583515.

Take a look at our blog outlining what accounting records you should keep.

Enquiry About My Tax

If you think there might be anything amiss with your Tax, or you’re setting up a new business and don’t want to get in any uncomfortable positions with HMRC, contact us for a free meeting to discuss your situation and how we may be able to help now and in the future.

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