Working the Enquiry: Opening Meetings: No Agent Acting
In any enquiry where there is no agent it may become clear during a meeting that there are possibly significant and culpable omissions from accounts or returns. You should advise the taxpayer to consider obtaining professional assistance, and of the benefits and implications of co-operation upon any potential settlement making it clear that it is their choice. At this point you should give the taxpayer
- the Human Rights Act (HRA) message in factsheet CC/FS9, which explains the taxpayer’s rights, including the right to apply for publicly funded financial assistance, see EM1375,
- a copy of factsheet CC/FS9 and
- if relevant, a copy of factsheets CC/FS6, CC/FS7 and CC/FS13.
A clear record of this should be kept in the papers. Where it turns out that there are material omissions, the advice should be repeated in a letter.
You can then demonstrate at a later stage, that you took all reasonable steps to safeguard the taxpayer’s interests. If he or she decides to employ professional assistance, discussions should be broken off so that they can be resumed in the agent’s presence.
If the taxpayer decides not to get professional help you will have to ensure that he or she is kept informed of the options available at each stage of the enquiry. It may be desirable to actually go through our explanatory factsheets , ensuring that the taxpayer understands what they say. Certainly any proposals for settlement should be clearly set out and explained. Apart from taking extra care over communication, your conduct of the enquiry and your proposals put forward will not be different whether or not there is an agent acting.
There may be some very straightforward businesses with few records where agreeing an accurate figure of profit is mainly an exercise in judgement and common sense. It would not be unreasonable in such cases to agree figures along broad lines with the taxpayer. You should still suggest that he or she should consider employing an agent for the future.