Working the Enquiry: Meetings: Purpose
Meetings with the taxpayer are a vital part of any enquiry work. Correspondence or meetings with the accountant are not normally an adequate substitute. The best way to get the facts about a business and the proprietor’s or director’s private affairs is face to face.
Meetings enable you to
- obtain facts from the taxpayer about their business, how they run it and the records that they keep
- obtain the facts in non-business enquiries
- explain the purpose of your enquiry. Taxpayers may not always be fully aware of the extent of HMRC enquiries
- establish whether the taxpayer wishes to disclose omissions
- agree what action is required and by whom to move the enquiry towards conclusion
- ensure that, where omissions have been found, the taxpayer is aware what offence has been committed, the likelihood of penalties and of the benefits of co-operating in bringing about an appropriate settlement at the earliest possible date. But you should make it clear that it is entirely a matter for them to decide whether and to what extent they co-operate. At this stage you should also give them the HRA message at EM1375 and advise them that public funding or legal aid for penalty appeals may be available. You should also issue the relevant penalty factsheets, including CC/FS15 “Compliance checks - Self Assessment and old penalty rules”, see EM1605
- quantify and agree omissions/inaccuracies and establish the underlying behaviours that led to them
- settle the enquiry.
Like many aspects of enquiry work, your conduct of meetings should improve with practice and experience. However, all good meetings will have been well prepared and followed up.
You must always know exactly why you are holding the meeting, what you want to achieve, what information you want to obtain.
You need to
- prepare and issue an agenda
- prepare yourself thoroughly, so that you have mastered the appropriate law and all the relevant facts, and
- make it clear to the taxpayer and agent at the end of the meeting exactly what is required of them after the meeting, and follow-up with a letter EM1855.
Interviews under caution are conducted by members of SI, in England and Wales, under the rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Separate legislation applies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Special procedures are applied to criminal cases and SI investigators employed on criminal work receive particular training in this respect.
You must never conduct an interview under caution locally. If you feel that a case is of such seriousness that a caution is required then you must, in advance of the meeting, submit the case to the Evasion Referral Team (ERT) for advice, see EM0303.
If during the meeting new evidence of serious evasion or fraud emerges follow CH300800.