Working the Enquiry: Meetings: Agreement of Notes with Taxpayer
Generally you should send copies of the notes of the meeting to the taxpayer or agent.
Depending on the circumstances, you may ask for their agreement and signature. You should say during the course of the meeting that you will do this. Explain that, if the taxpayer wishes to make any amendments, they should set those out in a separate document.
The taxpayer must see what you have recorded.
- Even the best Enquiry Officers can make mistakes in writing up the notes. If you don’t write a final note and check its accuracy with the taxpayer, you might later misinterpret the original notes that you took during the meeting. You might have misheard or misunderstood things. It is far better to correct any misunderstandings as soon as possible.
- If the taxpayer disagrees with any particular facts that you have recorded in the notes, you need to know about this as soon as possible, especially if it is likely to be material to the enquiry.
- The taxpayer may disagree with the notes because you have made an error in recording what was said. This should be straightforward to correct.
- The taxpayer may disagree with the notes because they wish to change some information that they gave at the meeting. If that is the case you should ask them to agree the final notes as a true record of the meeting but set out the revised information they wish to give you separately.
- The taxpayer may disagree with the notes because, when all the facts are considered together, they may establish that there is an inaccuracy, for example, answers given to various questions may invalidate the accounts. However, you may well be able to substantiate the inaccuracy in due course by using other methods - for instance once a business model or capital statement had been prepared.
- The value of a signed record is obvious in preventing later disputes about what was said. If the taxpayer refuses to sign and does not provide a credible reason for the refusal, this may cast doubt on the accuracy of what was said. On occasions, a taxpayer who was dishonest may not be prepared to sign a formal statement recording what they said.
However, you must not spend too much time in getting notes agreed. This can distract from the main purpose of the enquiry - to check the accuracy and completeness of the return. It is up to you to decide how important it is to obtain a signed record in any individual case. If you expect there may be problems, but feel that it will be vital to have a firm record of what was said, ask a colleague to sit in and take notes. They can then prepare their own record or sign the notes that you have written. If there is a dispute later about what was said and the matter goes to appeal, the other officer will be able to confirm the accuracy of your account of what took place.