Working the enquiry: meetings: preparing for the meeting - planning for meetings
You must fully prepare and plan for all meetings. You should view any meeting, face to face or otherwise, as your opportunity to establish facts and raise concerns with the taxpayer.
Your preparation will vary from case to case, but you must always:
- Be prepared to explain to the taxpayer why you want the meeting. Consider 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?
- Write down the questions you need to ask in the form of broad headings and detailed points.
- Thoroughly review all the information you held so that you are fully aware of all the relevant facts. 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 meeting much easier. Well-ordered and indexed case notes and papers will allow you to refer to matters quickly and easily during the meeting.
- When considering a settlement, ensure you have agreed with your manager the parameters within which you can reach agreement on profit levels or the basis of settlement. In many cases it will become obvious during the course of the meeting that omissions are sufficiently large and culpable for your enquiry to be extended into earlier years EM2000+.
You should try to avoid getting involved in an in depth telephone call about a complex issue for which you are not prepared. If the taxpayer telephones you unexpectedly, you should try and agree a time to call them back that is mutually convenient.
What notes will I have to be prepared to take?
You must always be prepared to make notes of
- any meetings you hold
- any telephone conversations in which you discuss matters relevant to the enquiry.
Notes are important evidence and you may have to present them before a tribunal. They will also be required if we find it necessary to commence a criminal investigation. In criminal proceedings full disclosure is required under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996.
You should tell the taxpayer that you will take notes and provide them and any agent with a copy. The taxpayer should then be given the opportunity to make any amendments, which they should set out in a separate letter. If you believe that what is discussed may be disputed at a later date, you should consider asking a colleague to attend and prepare their own notes, which may be needed to provide another record of what was said.
Your notes should be a factual summary and should cover all the important points of a meeting or telephone conversation. You should normally make a copy of your notes available to the taxpayer or agent and invite them to agree or otherwise comment on their accuracy. Meeting notes can be recorded on paper or a mobile device such as a surface pro, provided they are always kept securely. For further guidance on taking and storing meeting notes see CH204510.
Where there is no dispute about the content of the notes following any amendments, obtaining a signed copy of the notes will help prevent future disputes. It is not however necessary to have the notes signed if agreement to the notes and the position regarding any amendments is confirmed in writing.
Although with modern technology it may be relatively easy to record or video a face to face meeting, it is not policy to encourage this because notes of the meeting are perfectly adequate and often more reliable. Although you must never ask to make an audio recording of a face to face meeting, you should not object if a taxpayer want’s to make an audio recording, but where one is made, you should ask for a copy or transcript.
You must however always object to a video recording being made on HMRC premises for security reasons. If you are holding a meeting using a video conference, you should make sure that official papers, files and computer screens are not visible and that other members of staff and details of building security systems are not within camera shot. Where these conditions have been met, then if all the parties agree, the video conference can be recorded.
For guidance on the use of electronic or digital notebooks see CH203565 and CH204100.
Do I need an agenda for the meeting?
You should prepare and issue an agenda. This should cover the main areas for discussion at a meeting with the taxpayer. This will allow the taxpayer and any agent to carry out any necessary preparation in advance of the meeting. The agenda should be case specific but not a detailed list of questions. You should aim for it not to be seen as exhaustive or restrictive. The agenda for meetings should not be limited to asking specific questions as this may restrict your ability thoroughly explore all the relevant matters.