Receiving an HMRC investigation letter through the post is something everyone dreads. However, it is better to face the matter, rather than to bury your head in the sand.
If you receive an HMRC investigation letter, contact us at Altion Law for expert legal advice. We specialise in HMRC investigations and can represent you throughout the investigation and, if necessary, the subsequent appeal process.
Different types of HMRC Investigation letter
HMRC investigation letters come in various forms; there is no ‘one size fits all’ template. Self-employed people, for example, will typically receive a tax compliance check letter. This states that an HMRC officer wants to look more closely at your financial affairs to ensure the correct amount of tax has been paid.
You are not necessarily being accused of fraud or dishonesty at this stage. It could be a random investigation. Or HMRC officers may have spotted an anomaly on their system which requires clarification. Often this is due to incorrect figures being submitted on a self-assessment, or some other oversight.
If you receive a tax compliance check letter, you will be told when an HMRC officer wishes to visit you, and what information you should prepare in advance. The investigation will either focus on one aspect of your accounts (known as an aspect enquiry) or the complete picture (known as a full enquiry).
HMRC Criminal Investigation letter
If fraud is suspected, then you may receive a letter directly from the Fraud Investigation Service (FIS) instead. FIS can pursue fraud investigations via both civil and criminal procedures. There are different codes of practice, each of which is used in a different scenario. The one we most commonly deal with is a Code of Practice 9 (COP9) investigation.
A COP9 letter of investigation will state that you are suspected of committing tax fraud. It will be accompanied by a COP9 leaflet. The letter will invite you to participate in the Contractual Disclosure Facility (CDF) process. This is when you enter into a contract with HMRC. You admit to the fraud and promise to disclose all the details. In return, you avoid a criminal prosecution.
What to do if you receive an HMRC Investigation letter
If you receive an HMRC letter investigation, we recommend that you:
- Take a deep breath – it’s easy to panic at the thought of an HMRC investigation. Remain calm and face the problem head on. If it’s a compliance check, then you might have been chosen at random. Or, HMRC might just want to clear up a few details. If you do owe tax, then it is better to get it sorted sooner rather than later. The same goes for a COP9 investigation. You have just 60 days to decide whether to commit to the Contractual Disclosure Facility. If you fail to reply within 60 days, HMRC will assume that you have rejected the offer.
- Check it’s genuine HMRC correspondence – there are a lot of phishing letters pretending to be from HMRC, but which are in fact from scammers. Some of these letters look remarkably convincing and it can be hard to tell a genuine from a fake. If you receive a letter purporting to be from HMRC and you’re not sure if it’s a scam, contact HMRC yourself and ask if they’ve sent you a letter recently.
- Make sure the investigation is within the time limit – certain HMRC tax investigations are subject to time limits. For instance, when investigating a self-assessment return, HMRC must launch an investigation within 12 months, starting from the date the return was filed. An investigation can be opened after this deadline, but only if HMRC officers cannot reasonably have been expected to know about the relevant loss of tax at the time.
- Contact our solicitors – you are entitled to have your own professionals help with an HMRC investigation. Your first thought might be your accountant. A solicitor can also be useful, particularly as lawyers are subject to professional privilege. This means any correspondence between you and your solicitor must remain confidential, unless you allow its disclosure. At Altion Law, we specialise in HMRC investigations and can help you make sense of the situation.
- Let your solicitor help you – our solicitors will devise the best strategy in your particular case. If HMRC is out of time, we can bring this to their attention. Or, if HMRC’s assumptions are based on inaccurate information, we can gather evidence to prove this is the case. This may prevent any further action being taken against you, such as a full-scale fraud investigation. Our priority is to bring the matter to a swift and successful conclusion. We will apply our legal expertise and extensive experience to your advantage.
Contact Us Now
We appreciate just how unnerving it is to receive an HMRC investigation letter through the post. However, you do not have to go it alone. Our solicitors are here to help you.
If you would like to have a free confidential discussion with a member of our team, please either make a Free Request For Call Back or call us directly on 01908 414990 and we will be pleased to help you.