Meetings. That dreaded word. How many meetings have you endured for the love of your business? Of course, at their best, meetings can be productive and exciting; there’s plans to be implemented and goals to be achieved.
Meetings can be… well, a little tedious. And meetings with HMRC? They can be downright scary. ‘This isn’t going to be a meeting,’ you’re probably thinking. ‘This is an interrogation.’
Well, it doesn’t need to feel this way. Not with our help, anyway.
Still, if you need a little peace of mind about an upcoming meeting with HMRC? Today, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our tips on how to keep HMRC’s request stress-free.
How to handle an HMRC meeting request: the golden loophole.
First off, we’ve some good news for you, if you’re currently facing an HMRC enquiry or a tax investigation. Though HMRC staff are often told that meetings play an important role in their enquiries, it seems that Parliament didn’t quite get the memo when the rules surrounding HMRC were under discussion.
What do we mean?
The government HAS NOT given HMRC the power to force a taxpayer to attend informal meetings.
What’s more, some HMRC officers refuse to even bother with meetings with the above knowledge in mind – why bother when cases can be solved without them?
Of course, this is good news if you’re faced with an HMRC tax investigation or enquiry and are worried about the possibility of a gruelling interrogation. Still, there is a slight chance you might be called in for one. Why?
HMRC tells its officers that there are a bunch of reasons, be it to obtain facts and records, to explain the purpose of the enquiry a little more clearly, or to establish whether the taxpayer wants to disclose any information. Then, there’s the reason of figuring out how to move the enquiry forward. Hopefully to its conclusion.
But what if you’re resistant to the idea of a meeting?
HMRC tells its staff to reassure you. They might say that meetings can reduce the cost of an enquiry. That things will be cleared up quicker. That you’ll of course be kept in the loop with interview notes and the like.
Can you see a problem here?
HMRC tells its staff one thing, and you’re being told another.
On the one hand, HMRC tells its officers that the meetings may be useful for the enquiry. But with you? They’re hinting that the meetings are essential. In fact, they might make it seem like a missed meeting would be bad news. When it’s just not like that at all; like we mentioned earlier – most cases just don’t need them.
Okay, fine – it’s arguable that a meeting might get things solved quicker. But really? If meetings are not mandatory, any HMRC officer’s reasonings for you to attend a meeting are just designed to get you to comply. They’re trying to force your hand.
Of course, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t comply. Just that you don’t have to, if you find the idea of a meeting stressful or intimidating.
Still, what happens if I agree to a meeting with HMRC?
Ideally, HMRC want all their meetings to be held at business premises or at an accountant’s office. This is so it’s easier to refer to any necessary materials or records. But once again, this isn’t enforceable by law. Meaning you don’t have to be pressured into inviting HMRC into your office. Or, your home, if you work from there.
That said, though, if HMRC really want to inspect the premises? Unfortunately, they can, though they have to go through the route of Schedule 36, a statutory demand that HMRC use to gain information when necessary – a topic we covered in a previous post. However, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the default position from HMRC. And what’s more?
Even Schedule 36 doesn’t enforce a meeting.
That’s because – and this is according to HMRC’s own Enquiry manual – meetings are ultimately always a voluntary procedure. Even if they go through the route of examining the premises. You might have to let them in, of course, but you don’t have to answer their questions in depth.
What’s the best course of action if asked for a meeting?
Ultimately, it’s always best to ask advice first. But really? You don’t have to attend. You don’t have to agree to one at all. Or, if you want, you can agree to have us or your accountant speak for you! You won’t even have to be present.
So what can we take away from this if you’re facing a tax investigation?
To conclude, there are a plethora of reasons why you shouldn’t accept a meeting with the HMRC. Be it horror stories of facing investigators who’ve gotten too big for their boots, or of time being wasted with unnecessary and grilling questioning, the thought of a meeting with HMRC can appear an incredibly daunting task.
Of course, sometimes, there’s a good reason for a meeting. If the HMRC officer is feeling generous during the initial stages of your tax investigation or enquiry, they might arrange a meeting with your accountant, rather than you. Such a meeting would mean that you wouldn’t have to be bothered – you can let your representative do their job.
But these meetings? They don’t always go ahead. Instead, the investigation begins as it usually does, and you’re contacted at a later date when your HMRC officer might be frustrated with some aspect of the investigation.
It’s then that the interrogation might well begin.
So if you’re faced with the offer of a meeting?
The good news: you don’t have to agree.
And if you want to anyway? If you want to get things sorted, quick and easy?
We hope that clears things up. But if you’re still feeling a little worried about an HMRC tax investigation?
Get in touch. And we’ll give you peace of mind.
The Tax Haven.