HMRC investigation? Let us help protect your interests
Tax Investigation Management
Tax investigations by HMRC often come as an unpleasant shock for many and can be very stressful.
From the outset communication from HMRC can be quite intimidating as they tend to take an aggressive position and “throw the book”. The enquiry will often embrace many aspects of the business and will typically take the form of a standard template letter padded out in parts by reference to the particular client.
In other cases HMRC will issue a letter which on the face of it looks benign but has far reaching implications if not handled correctly.
At Shipleys we are non-judgmental, vigorous in defending our clients and aim to resolve the investigation in the most efficient manner possible without compromising the quality of our work.
We have the experience and know-how to handle local district cases to large tax fraud cases both in direct and indirect tax (VAT).
And with Shipleys Tax Fee Protection Partner our clients have peace of mind that in the event of an enquiry all professional fees up to the First Tier Tribunal are covered.
- First steps
- How we can help
- How do HMRC investigate a business?
- What are the trigger points to look out for?
Some of the areas in which we regularly assist clients are:
- Code of Practice 9
- Code of Practice 8
- Voluntary Disclosures to HMRC (Onshore)
- Compliance Checks
- Negotiated Settlements with HMRC
- You need to know what your rights are under enquiry
- Identify and prioritise of areas of primary concern
- Assemble and analyse relevant information and evidence in order to quantify the correct tax liability
- You need advice on what HMRC can ask you to produce – whether you have to provide copies of documents and soft copies of electronic files for example
- You need an assessment of your accounting systems to know if it is robust enough to withstand scrutiny
- You want to reduce the risk of an investigation going forward and improve compliance procedures.
How we can help
- Our team consists of highly experienced ex-HMRC Inspectors
- We can influence and control the pace of investigation
- Our specialist knowledge will be utilised to challenge any incorrect assumptions made by HMRC
- Comprehensive Fee Protection insurance for clients
Remember early intervention by a tax investigation specialist could resolve the dispute relatively quickly; what not do to is to attempt to correspond with the tax man yourself as you could unknowingly put the proverbial “foot in it”.
Are under enquiry? Do you think you are at risk of an investigation? Contact us now for independent advice on your options.
HOW DO HMRC INVESTIGATE A BUSINESS?
Some tax investigations are random but increasingly the majority are as a result of HMRC’s risk analyses/assessments.
This “risk assessment” process typically compares the results of the business to other similar businesses; it statistically analyse areas such as gross profit margin, mark-up rate and comparisons to earlier years. Where a case is “risk assessed” HMRC cannot decline the invitation to investigate.
Even where HMRC know that there was “nothing in it for them”, officers have openly admitted that they have no choice but to open an enquiry because the risk assessment process had identified the case as warranting an enquiry.
What are the trigger points to look out for?
The short answer is patterns and, to a certain extent, timing.
Most accountants are unaware that whilst HMRC can launch an investigation into a business at any time within the statutory timeframe, enquiry notices are usually timedto be issued at specific times of the year in order to control work flow. Favoured times for issuing enquiry notice are the end of January (accountants busy with heavy workloads) and Fridays (clients receive a shock when opening post on a weekend!).
Nowadays, HMRC typically impose a non-statutory time limit on the taxpayer for producing information requested in the opening letter. Often it will not be possible to provide this within the time frame specified, and it is advisable to make contact very quickly with HMRC if this is the case. This is important in both establishing a relationship with the officer dealing with the enquiry and also gaining maximum penalty mitigation for cooperation in the event there is culpability.
HMRC expect to see consistency across a business, both within the business itself and also across similar sectors. It will expect turnover to be fairly level whilst accepting modest fluctuations in either direction. If turnover goes down it will expect expenses to decrease. If profit decreases HMRC will query if proprietors’ drawings/directors remuneration increases. This crude analysis tool is often misleading and belies the actual reasons for fluctuations leading to businesses that have nothing to hide being flagged up for enquiry.
For example, if turnover increases substantially HMRC may conclude that maybe not all of the turnover in the previous year was declared. Or if it drops significantly then maybe some has been taken by the owner and not declared? The reality maybe that turnover has increased due to having a exceptionally good year and decreased because of a loss of a large customer or order.
Suspicion is also aroused if the claim in respect of administration expenses increases well beyond what would be expected comparing it with the previous year. HMRC will wonder whether hours have increased (hence the increase in admin expenses) and therefore the officer will wonder why turnover has gone down.
Proprietors’ drawings – a substantial increase could mean that drawings may have been understated in the past, leading HMRC to query whether any cash takings have not been declared. Similarly, if the drawings are less than the salary paid to the highest paid employee HMRC will be very uneasy – business owners are expected to be the highest earners in the business even though the reality is most proprietors in business start ups do not take any drawings in the formative years.
Gross profit margins (GPR) – typically the GPR of the business will be examined over a period of up to 6 years to see whether or not it is consistent. It will also be compared to similar businesses and fluctuations of more than a few percent will arouse suspicion. HMRC has access to a vast database of information indicating what the GPR of a particular type of business should be.
Invoices – An officer will scrutinise invoices carefully to check whether part of the invoices are being paid in cash to disguise the true GPR.
Sectors – HMRC will often target a particular sector because it has become aware of consistent malpractice across the sector. For example, Medical practices, dentists and vets are targeted because they engage locums as self- employed workers whereas in reality it is difficult to show that a locum is self- employed in many typical practices.
Professional footballers and their clubs have been under scrutiny for a few years now mainly because in some cases a player will receive a payment for the exploitation of his “image rights” and HMRC does not approve of this because it reduces or in some cases completely avoids liability to UK tax by devising a structure which holds the image rights offshore.
Umbrella companies and IT agencies using “one-man band” IT companies have been under the microscope for a long time (see IR35), mainly because it is considered that many of them are purportedly engaged as self- employed workers but the reality is that they can be deemed to be employees.
Standard of living – does an individual have the means to finance his/her standard of living? Information will be gained in this regard from a variety of sources, giving HMRC details of property owned, cars, boats, bank accounts, horses etc. Although there will often be perfectly reasonable explanations as to how such assets may have been acquired it may not stop HMRC delving further.
People often think they can outwit HMRC and stay one step ahead. However, they should be well aware of that most of the tricks which the unscrupulous businessman may try has been seen and dealt with by HMRC many times over and they underestimate HMRC at their peril.
If you require help with tax or VAT investigations then speak to our experts on 0114 272 4984 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest news & blogs…
THE CHANCELLOR Jeremy Hunt belatedly announced his Autumn Statement today heralding a new phase of austerity and sneaky tax rises.
Here at Shipleys Tax we briefly look at what’s changed… again.
The Chancellor maintained that there were no increases to the headline rates of tax. However, this is somewhat misleading and does not mean that individuals won’t pay more income tax, quite the opposite in fact.
- The threshold at which the 45% rate of income tax kicks in will be reduced from £150,000 to £125,140 from 6 April 2023.
- The personal allowance will remain at the current level until April 2028. As wages are increasing, albeit at a lower rate than inflation, this means that earners will start to pay income tax. The freeze on the 40% tax rate threshold is paid has also been extended by two years to 2028.
- The tax-free dividend allowance will be cut to £1,000 from April 2023 then to £500 the from April 2024.
The employment allowance will remain at the current level of £5,000. The main NI thresholds will also be held at the current level until April 2028 meaning the amount businesses and individuals pay will increase.
Capital gains tax (CGT)
There is no change to the CGT rates, but the annual exempt amount will be cut from £12,300 to £6,000 from 6 April 2023, and then to £3,000 from April 2024.
Corporate Tax changes
- Confirmation of the increase in Corporation Tax to 25% from April 23.
- The £1 million level of the Annual Investment Allowance is being made permanent.
- R&D tax reliefs – for expenditure on or after 1 April 2023, the SME additional deduction will decrease from 130% to 86%.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
The increase in stamp duty land tax allowances to £250k for residential property will be retained, but only until 31 March 2025.
- Electric vehicles will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty from April 2025.
- First Year Allowance for electric vehicle chargepoints – 100% First Year Allowance for electric vehicle chargepoints will be extended to April 2025.
- IHT – the nil rate band which is the amount an individual can leave tax free on death, will be frozen at £325,000 for a further two years until 2028.
- The energy profits levy will increase to 35% from 25% and extended from four to six years.
- National living wage to increase to £10.42 per hour from 1 April 2023.
- Tax avoidance – the government is investing a further £79 million over the next 5 years to increase HMRC’s capacity to tackle serious fraud, and to reduce non-compliance among wealthy taxpayers.
If you are affected by any of the issues above and would like more information, please call 0114 272 4984 or email email@example.com.
Please note that Shipleys Tax do not give free advice by email or telephone.
THE NEW CHANCELLOR has today scrapped most of the mini-Budget announcements made by his short lived predecessor. What, if any, of the announcements made by Kwasi Kwarteng survived the latest round of U-turns?
In today’s brief Shipleys Tax blog, we look at the latest round of fiscal policy announcements, which may or may not stick around.
What’s left from the mini-Budget 2022
The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, announced today that the cutting of the basic rate of income tax (from 20% to 19%) would be postponed indefinitely – at least until “economic conditions allow a reduction”.
This had been rumoured toward the end of last week, but that wasn’t the end of the U-turns. The planned cutting of dividend tax (which was increased in line with National Insurance) has also been scrapped, as has the reversal of the controversial off-payroll working/IR35 rules. The cap on energy bills that was set to last for two years will now, however, be reassessed in April.
What has remained?
The only major measures that remain from the mini-Budget are the changes to National Insurance (1.25% cut retained), increase in the stamp duty land tax allowance, and the permanent increase of the annual investment allowance to £1 million.
More to follow.
THE EMBARASSING farce continues at Westminster with more twist and turns than reality TV. The PM Liz Truss has today overseen more U-turns to her now defunct flagship fiscal policy – the Mini-BUdget 2022.
Here at Shipleys Tax we look at the new merry-go-round of announcements made today. Quite how long these policies will last is anyone’s guess.
NEW Summary Budget measures – 14 October 2022
- Income tax
45% Additional rate abolished (40% top rate now)SCRAPPED – 45% top tax rate to be reinstated
- Basic rate cut to 19% (from 20%) – RETAINED FOR NOW
- NIC – April 2022 increase in NIC reversed from 6 November and Health & Social Care Levy scrapped: RETAINED
Corporation tax to remain at 19% – planned 2023 increase to 25% cancelledSCRAPPED – Rise to 25% reinstated
- Off payroll working/IR35 – previous legislative changes to be repealed from April 2023 – RETAINED
- Introduction of VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors – RETAINED
- New “Investment Zones” with enhanced tax reliefs and relaxed planning frameworks – RETAINED
- Removal of cap on bankers’ bonuses – – RETAINED
- SEIS and CSOP limits to be increased. EIS and VCT reliefs will be extended beyond 2025 – RETAINED
- Annual Investment Allowance to stay at £1m for capital allowances – RETAINED
- No stamp duty on first £250,000, for first time buyers that rises to £425,000 – comes into operation today- RETAINED
All policies subject to change. Further detail to follow.