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My taxes are being investigated! What’s going to happen next?

My taxes are being investigated! What’s going to happen next?

Tax investigations can happen to businesses of all sizes, whether you’re a sole trader who’s been running for a year or a corporate enterprise with multiple offices that have been established for two decades. Individuals can also receive an enquiry letter from HMRC too.

 Here, our Tax Inspection Manager, Anthony Middleton, lifts the lid on what businesses and their owners can expect when they’re being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), as well as the steps they can follow.

All tax investigations, whether that’s PAYE, Corporation Tax, Income Tax or individual Self Assessments, are carried out by HMRC, with most companies or owners first finding out that their tax affairs are going to be scrutinised via letter. In some circumstances, HMRC will call organisations to tell them they’re going to investigate them, which tends to mainly be for VAT-related enquiries.

There are formal notices and informal requests for information, the details of which we’ll cover in a separate article at a later point. Businesses will typically be given 30 days’ notice to respond to any requests for information. If they’ve received a telephone call, then a tighter schedule may be involved. However, in all situations, it’s up to the company that’s being investigated to decide whether or not what’s being requested is manageable in terms of their own timescales. Early discussions with HMRC to amend timescales are preferable.

There are two different routes HMRC can choose to go down. They can either look at a whole return, which is known as a Full Enquiry, or a single item or area of a return, referred to as an Aspect Enquiry. 

Regardless of the route that’s being taken, investigations tend to follow a similar process, which should ideally be dealt with as follows:

STEP 1: Notify your accountant

This may seem like a really obvious point, but companies or individuals who have an accountant (or ‘agent’ in HMRC’s language), don’t always tell them that they’re going to be investigated. They assume their accountant knows everything, but this isn’t always the case. For instance, HMRC, might write to the company about three taxes, but only write to their accountant about two as they only have the authority to discuss matters where a relevant authority has been signed. Never assume that your accountant knows that HMRC has been in touch with you.

STEP 2: Analyse what’s required

So, now that you know HMRC want to look into your tax affairs, the next step is to ascertain exactly what is it they’re after. What information are they requesting to see? How can you help them answer the question(s) they’re posing? And is what they’re asking for accurate?

It’s worth noting here that the type of tax that’s being explored and how many taxes that are being investigated will impact the length of the investigation.

STEP 3: Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’

Obviously, it’s important that you’re as co-operative as possible with HMRC and provide them with the details they require within the given timescales (usually within 30 days). In fact, it’s a common fact that companies that give, help and tell during the course of their enquiry are more likely to receive reduced penalties if errors have been made and additional tax is due.

However, co-operation aside, there are instances, when HMRC do ask for information in Opening Letters that they aren’t necessarily entitled to know about at that given time.

For example, you might be a limited company and you’re being asked in your Opening Letter to share all of your personal bank statements as a company director. Usually, this is something HMRC are actually not entitled to see at this stage. It’s essential that their requests for information are made at the right time and that they’re not just simply ‘fishing’ around for information. If you’ve followed the advice in Step 1 and notified your accountant, then they’ll be able to advise you on what can and can’t be divulged at this stage. Alternatively, you may want to seek professional help from a tax investigation specialist.

STEP 4: Provide what’s required

It’s important that you do provide HMRC with the details they’re entitled to see within the given timescales. Ideally, you should produce the information that’s been requested of you through your accountant.

STEP 5: Be patient (and potentially expect to hear from HMRC again)

HMRC will analyse the information you’ve shared with them and, if they have any further questions or if there are any causes for concern raised by what you’ve divulged, then you’ll receive another letter from them.

STEP 6: If there are no problems, look out for your Closure Notice

Assuming everything’s ok and your tax affairs all add up, you’ll be issued with a Closure Notice that confirms your enquiry is over and no additional tax is due. End of investigation.

STEP 7: Check HMRC’s calculations

When a Closure Notice is issued, and HMRC issue revised assessments or calculations based on their findings, be sure to check them. These computations should be correct, but they can sometimes be wrong. Make sure any adjustments have been entered correctly, and the tax rates that have been used are correct. In certain circumstances, it can be difficult to amend them at a later date or even get them revised.

STEP 8: If there are any issues, be prepared to discuss them

If HMRC do identify any problems, there are different ways you can choose to progress your enquiry. You might want to call a meeting with them, which you can attend with your accountant or ask your accountant to attend on your behalf. The aim of this meeting should be to ascertain what the issues are that have been identified and what HMRC requires going forward.

Hopefully, by scheduling the meeting and discussing your enquiry face-to-face, any queries can be quickly identified and ironed out and you’ll hopefully receive your Closure Letter quickly. HMRC often request a meeting to see company directors or representatives. There’s no legal requirement to attend a meeting with them. All meeting requests should therefore be discussed and carefully considered.

STEP 9: Weigh up your options

If your further communication with HMRC has resulted in you having a disagreement with them (unfortunately this can happen), then now’s the time to weigh up your options.

More often than not, businesses continue to debate the issue(s) at hand for a number of months, which finally results in HMRC issuing a Closure Notice through a Decision Letter.

OPTION 1 – Internal review

If you don’t agree with the Closure Notice, then you can ask for an Internal Review to be carried out by a HMRC employee who wasn’t involved in the original investigation. There’s no additional cost involved in requesting an Internal Review. However, you do need to ensure it’s done within the correct time parameters.

OPTION 2 – Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternatively, you can go to ADR, where members of HMRC’s dedicated ADR team act as a mediator between the taxpayer, accountant and HMRC, and look to identify if there’s a way around the particular problem. It could be that there’s been a genuine mistake or information has simply been misinterpreted. This can be a sensible option to hopefully avoid the need to go to a Tax Tribunal.

OPTION 3 – Tax tribunal

Beyond ADR, there are two tax tribunals (1) First Tier (for the vast majority of enquiries) and (2) Upper Tier (for more complex enquiries, as well as First Tier Tribunal appeals).

There are four different types of First Tier Tribunals:

  1. Paper (can be conducted informally, so there’s no need for the taxpayer to attend).
  2. Basic case.
  3. Standard (for middle of the road investigations).
  4. Complex

Most tribunal hearings are chaired by legally qualified tribunal judges, who often sit with specialist, non-legal members – for example, doctors, accountants, surveyors or those with particular experience of disabilities or the armed services – depending on the subject matter of the hearing.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the longer your investigation takes to sort, the greater the cost implications, which could include appointing a solicitor or tax barrister at this stage. You may need to consider the commerciality of continuing with an enquiry, even if you disagree with HMRC. Tribunals can be extremely time consuming to prepare for and, as a result, expensive.

The scale and complexity of tax investigations do vary from business-to-business and individual-to-individual however, by following this best practice advice, taxpayers and their businesses stand a much greater chance of navigating their way around the investigation process as efficiently and effectively as possible. Always consider penalties when responding to HMRC as they’re tax geared and can be reduced if you fully co-operate with HMRC.

For more information or to discuss your tax investigations with one of our tax investigation specialists, contact us on 01905 777600 or mail@ormerodrutter.co.uk.


DSC6529 (1)About the author

Anthony Middleton is responsible for monitoring all of Ormerod Rutter’s tax investigations and deals specifically with Corporation Tax and Income Tax enquiries. He has been a member of the team for 13 years.

 


 

Payments On Account: Everything you need to know

What are Payments on Account?

Payments on Account are a method of paying towards future self-assessment tax bills. They are payable twice a year and each payment is normally 50% of the previous year’s tax liability.

Payments on Account are payable by midnight on 31 January and 31 July.

How does it work?

The first instalment is due on the 31 January. This amount will be 50% of your previous tax year’s tax liability. This is the same day that a balancing payment must be settled for the previous tax year.

The remaining 50% will be due by 31 July.  This enables your tax liability to be spread out throughout the year.

How about an example?

You owe £4,000 on earnings between 6 April 2015 and 5 April 2016 (excluding Class 2 National Insurance).

This amount will need to be settled by 31 January 2017. On top of this, a payment of £2,000 will need to be paid at the same time and again on 31 July 2017.

This means that when you file your self-assessment tax return for 2017 you will have already paid £4,000 towards it.

If you have overpaid, you will be due a refund. If you have underpaid, this difference will need to be settled by 31 January 2018.

Are Payments on Account voluntary?

If the tax bill from the previous year was over £1,000 then Payments on Account are required. However, if more than 80% of that year’s tax liabilities have been paid at source (e.g. through PAYE) Payments on Account are not required.

Can Payments on Account be reduced?

It is not unusual for earning’s to fluctuate year to year. If this is the case and earnings are forecast to be lower for the next financial year; an application can be made to reduce the Payments on Account via HMRC.

It is worth noting that if earnings remain the same and do not decrease after you have reduced the Payments on Account, that the difference will need to be settled by the preceding January plus any interest accrued.

Have a question on Payment on Account? Leave a question or comment below and we can offer you expert advice.

At Ormerod Rutter we understand that finances and tax can sometimes be confusing. We have 15 expert partners to hand that can offer expert advice on all financial matters, no matter how big or small. We pride ourselves on having big firm capabilities and family firm personality. Have a question or want to discuss your personal or business finances? Give us a call on 01905 777600.

* Please note that all information contained in this article is for informative purposes only and that we cannot be responsible for any errors or omissions.*

The Making Tax Digital consultation has ended…

On 7 November 2016 the Making Tax Digital (MTD) consultations came to an end. First outlined in the 2015 Budget, it is a move to transform the tax system to make it the ‘most digitally-advanced tax administrations in the world by 2020.’

The controversial plan is set to raise £1bn in additional tax revenue but there is criticism about the potential costs and administrative burden for businesses and individuals.

The six consultations that have taken place are:

  1. Bringing business tax into the digital age
  2. Simplifying tax for unincorporated businesses
  3. Simplified cash basis for unincorporated property businesses
  4. Voluntary pay as you go (PAYG)
  5. The tax administration consultation
  6. Transforming the tax system through the better use of information

There is also a separate overview for small businesses, self-employed and smaller landlords.

The consultation was initially planned to begin in April 2016, but was delayed until later in the year. With the reforms set to be introduced in 2018 businesses and individuals want to know how this will affect them going forward.

What we do know is that all unincorporated businesses and landlords with a turnover of less than £10,000 a year will be exempt.

Additionally, HMRC has said that it will delay the start of MTD for ‘some other small businesses’ to give them enough time to get used to the digital record keeping and submitting of quarterly updates. HMRC then goes on to say that they expect all tax returns to be done digitally by 2020.

With feedback from the consultation due before the end of January 2017, we are actively looking at any changes that may be implemented; and are here to help you during this transition.

If you have any questions or concerns about MTD please feel free to contact us at mail@ormerodrutter.co.uk or calling the office on 01905 777600.

Have you renewed your Fee Protection Insurance?

For those of you who have joined our Fee Protection Insurance scheme against the costs of dealing with an enquiry by the tax authorities, you should have received a renewal letter with the costs of the scheme for the next twelve months, and paid to rejoin.

The renewal date was 31 October 2016.

However, it is not too late to act if you haven’t already. Simply check the quote that should have been sent out to you and make the relevant payment or, if you cannot find the relevant paperwork, ask for a revised renewal quotation to be sent to you.

If you are not familiar with our fee protection insurance, here is a brief overview of the service.

Tax investigations can be intimidating, and with HMRC growing increasingly more powerful, an investigation into your affairs is more likely than ever – even if you’ve paid all your tax. Although we work hard to keep your tax affairs in order, compliance doesn’t necessarily keep you safe.

If you are unlucky enough to have your business investigated by HMRC then our expert team are on-hand to guide you through the process. Our knowledge and experience of dealing with HMRC at all levels will ensure you achieve the best possible outcome. Even if your records are in order and you have paid all your tax, the cost of preparing and presenting your case for investigation can be an unwanted and expensive overhead, which also why we also offer our clients Fee Protection Cover.”

Fee protection covers you for the costs of any compliance check we deal with on your behalf, regarding Income Tax, Corporation Tax, PAYE, National Insurance, CIS, IR35, VAT, National Minimum Wage, IHT and Child Tax Credit enquiries.

A copy of our service summary can be found here

The cost of our Fee Protection scheme is significantly less than the cost of a tax investigation. Is it really a risk worth taking?

If you have any questions about Fee Protection Insurance please feel free to contact us on mail@ormerodrutter.co.uk or by calling the office on 01905 777600.

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