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You might be one of the lucky ones or perhaps you’re just very thorough when it comes to your tax return. Either way, every small business owner in the UK wants to avoid a HM Revenue & Customs investigation at all costs – no pun intended. But what if the worst were to happen? What can you do to ease the pressure? Let’s take a look at what you can expect to happen if the dreaded notice ever arrives.
If you are a member of the Federation of Small Businesses, this is when we would recommend making a claim to the legal benefits policy team.
The first thing you need to understand about a tax investigation is this: you are innocent until proven guilty. Bear in mind though, HMRC do not have to provide you with the reason(s) behind the investigation and they have the right to look into any tax return that they feel does not quite add up.
Another important piece of information to remember is that HMRC may only conduct one enquiry per tax return, if there are multiple issues then they can all be addressed under this one enquiry.
In order to conduct an investigation, the inspector allocated to your case must formerly issue you with a notice in writing that states an enquiry is about to begin (Section 9A TMA 1970). If you have an accountant, then they will be contacted directly with any questions or stipulations the investigator has about your return. However, if you don’t have an accountant then the questions will be posed directly to you.
With this letter you will also receive:
If you run your business as part of a partnership, then you should expect notice to be sent to the nominated partner who should then inform the other partners. The law states that each of the partners tax returns fall under this one enquiry (Section 9A TMA 1970), so keep this in mind.
Similar to the above, limited companies must be informed of an enquiry in writing (Schedule 18 Para 24 Finance Act 1998). The enquiry extends to anything that is meant to be included within the return, but does not extend to the personal returns of any company directors.
Records will be requested, these can include business banking statements, purchase invoices and petty cash books.
Don’t panic if you receive a tax investigation notice completely out of the blue. HM Revenue & Customs perform ‘spot-check’ enquiries, for every thousand tax returns HMRC receives they will perform one random investigation. This investigation will take the form of a full enquiry and will be carried out in the same manner as any other.
Unfortunately we won’t be able to cover your investigation if it began before you became an FSB member. To avoid a costly and damaging investigation we recommend that any small business owner signs up today. Simply visit the Join Portal.
Tax advice & investigation protection from the FSB