Working the Enquiry: Meetings: Where to hold meetings and safety implications
Wherever possible, meetings should be held at business premises or accountant’s office because it will normally be easier to examine the business records there.
Holding a meeting at the business premises or accountants office should make it easier to seek any clarification that you need about the records and record keeping methods. Holding a meeting at the business premises will also enable you to observe the day to day operation of the business and help you put your findings into the correct context.
There may be occasions however where the only option is to arrange a meeting at the taxpayer’s private residence
Before you arrange a meeting or use formal information powers to carry out inspections, see CH25000+, you must always consider your personal safety. This is the primary consideration when deciding whether to conduct a meeting at a taxpayer’s private residence.
For guidance about the health and safety of staff working outside the office, see COG11450, COG11500 and HR62040 Personal Safety.
You and your manager are responsible for observing these guidelines. If you or your manager has any concerns about the area you are visiting or the person to be visited, you must critically review the purpose of the visit.
In addition to the health and safety aspects, you should be aware of the potential for discussions to be misrepresented or allegations to be made concerning your conduct. Before arranging a meeting with an unrepresented taxpayer, especially when it is to be held at their private residence, you and your manager should consider whether additional safeguards may be needed. For example, it may be appropriate for more than one officer to attend or it may not be appropriate for a male on his own to attend a meeting with a lone female interviewee.
Wherever possible the taxpayer’s agent, where the taxpayer is represented, or a friend or relative should be encouraged to attend the meeting with the taxpayer.
For guidance about conduct and behaviour during a visit or meeting, see COG11000.
When attending a meeting you must always identify yourself on arrival.
It is important to remember that when you are attending a meeting outside the office, you are an invited guest of the owner or occupier of the property. You should conduct yourself accordingly and leave at any time you are asked, however inconvenient it may be.
For guidance about what to do if you are refused entry when using formal inspection powers, see CH25650.
If any threats or allegations about your conduct are made against you during a meeting, you must withdraw immediately and make a note of the events as soon as you are able to do so. These must be based on the evidence you have seen and must not include any unsupported allegations or remarks that might be regarded as defamatory. Your notes may be reviewed by the Adjudicator or the Ombudsman in the event of a complaint or may be released to the taxpayer under the Data Protection Act, see EM0070.