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HMRC internal manual

Enquiry Manual

Working the Enquiry: Meetings: Preparation

Time spent preparing will be repaid once the meeting takes place. In the early stages of an enquiry you must view the opening meeting as your opportunity to establish facts and raise concerns with the taxpayer face to face. If at all possible you should not get drawn into a meeting for which you are not prepared.

If a taxpayer arrives at the office unannounced, try to arrange a time for a formal meeting, unless:

  • the point to be discussed is relatively straightforward
  • it would be inconvenient for the taxpayer to do so, or
  • you do not believe the appointment will be kept.

When examining records at the business premises, you will want to find out about the business and the record system, but you should be careful about being drawn into a discussion of other matters for which you are not prepared and which will eat into the time available.

The extent of your preparation will depend upon the individual case, but you should always have

  • considered the purpose of the meeting. What do you want to know and why do you want to know it? What information do you need to address the risks identified and any concerns you may have?
  • made notes to explain to the taxpayer why you wanted the meeting
  • written down the questions you need to ask in the form of broad headings and detailed points
  • thoroughly reviewed all the information held. You will have to react to what the taxpayer tells you, which may contradict something which is in your papers. If a thorough review of the case was undertaken in the early stages and has been kept up to date since, it makes a review before a meeting much easier. Well ordered and indexed papers allow you to refer to matters quickly and easily during the meeting
  • ensured you have agreed with your manager the parameters within which you can reach agreement of profit levels or the basis of settlement. In many cases it will become obvious during the course of the interview that omissions are sufficiently large and culpable for your enquiry to be extended into earlier years EM2000+. The middle of a productive meeting is not the time to break off to check with your managers and, if you exceed your discretion, this will cause embarrassment and delay.