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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Working the enquiry: meetings: general

Introduction

Meetings with the taxpayer are an important part of enquiry work. These can be face to face or via a telephone or video conference where these facilities are available. Meetings are often the best way to find out the facts about a business and give you and the taxpayer the opportunity to discuss the identified risks and how you have arrived at any conclusions you have already reached.

Depending on what stage you are at in your enquiry, holding one or more meetings, will also help you establish facts, settle any points of disagreement and reach an agreed settlement with the taxpayer.   

Not all enquiries will require a meeting. The number of meetings, the subject matter and who attends will depend on the circumstances, bearing in mind that face to face meetings can be expensive and inconvenient for the taxpayer.

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, you will need to consider whether holding a meeting will be the most effective way of establishing all the relevant facts or reaching an agreed settlement.  

What is the purpose of holding a meeting?

The precise purpose will depend on what stage you are at in your enquiry. A meeting at an early stage in the enquiry will help you establish the facts about the business and it will often be cost effective to combine this with an agreed inspection of the business premises or an examination of the business records.

Towards the end of an enquiry the main purpose of a meeting will be to resolve any outstanding points and put you in a position to explain how you arrived at the amount of the tax, interest and any penalties that may be due.  Depending on the circumstances, once you are in this position you may want to hold a settlement meeting, see EM1860 to agree the figures, agree a contract settlement and discuss what needs to be done to ensure future compliance. 

Meetings may enable you to:

  • Find out the facts about a business, how it is run and the records kept.
  • Understand how transactions have been treated for taxation purposes and how they have been recorded. 
  • Find out the facts about the proprietor’s or directors private financial affairs.
  • Explain the reasons for your enquiry.
  • Address risks you have identified.
  • Establish whether the taxpayer wishes to disclose any omissions or inaccuracies.
  • Agree what action is required and by whom to move the enquiry towards a conclusion.
  • Ensure that, where omissions have been found, the taxpayer is aware what offence may have been committed, the likelihood of penalties and of the benefits of co-operating in reaching a settlement at the earliest possible date. You need to 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, see EM1375, and advise them that public funding or legal aid for penalty appeals may be available. You should also issue the relevant penalty factsheets, see EM1605.
  • Quantify and agree the omissions and/or inaccuracies, and establish the underlying behaviors that led to them, and if any penalty reductions can be given.
  • Discuss and agree what payments on account are to be made.
  • Agree on what basis the enquiry can be settled.
  • Agree a contract settlement where this is appropriate.

How do I plan for a meeting?

Once you have identified the purpose and objectives for the meeting, you will need to plan your agenda for the meeting. You should ensure that you focus on the identified risks and any concerns that have arisen during the records examination.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)