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HMRC internal manual

Technical Teams Operational Guidance

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Civil Investigation of Fraud (Code 9): historical record: the opening meeting: conduct of opening meeting

Where the case covers several different taxes, staff with relevant experience should be involved in the meeting.

The meeting should take place in a structured way. The first part of the interview might, for example, focus on VAT. Once those matters had been satisfactorily dealt with it should be explained that the interview would be moving on to consider, say, corporation tax.

It is important to emphasise that at this point the interviewing officer is not exercising any powers. At the start of the meeting it should be made clear that the taxpayer has been asked to attend on a voluntary basis and that he is free to leave at any time. He does not have to co-operate. Any power, for example, requiring the production of certain documents should only be exercised at a later stage if the voluntary procedure breaks down. It is not the intention that such powers are exercised at the opening meeting.

There should be a single meeting for all taxes. It would be wholly artificial to insist on separate meetings for separate taxes. It is important to keep in mind that the meeting is a voluntary meeting and that the taxpayer has agreed to it taking place. By dealing with each tax separately it should be clear to the taxpayer what issues are under discussion at any one time. The fact that the taxpayer agreed to the meeting should be sufficient to prevent any complaint unless there were particular accusations of oppression.

Where statutory powers specific to a particular tax regime have been used, information can be pooled provided that it was obtained using an appropriate information power for an appropriate purpose. It is therefore essential to leave a clear audit trail as to exactly what powers have been exercised, when and why. (This is much less likely to be an issue where powers under Sch 36 FA 2008 are used, from 1 April 2009 onwards, as these powers apply for IT, CT, CGT and VAT purposes.)

The recording and retention of material is a critical part of the disclosure obligations set out in CPIA 1996 (as amended by Section 32-40 CJA 2003) in the event that a subsequent criminal investigation is undertaken within HMRC; it is therefore important that you are able to demonstrate not only what actions have been taken and why but also that material in relation to the specific matter is searchable and retrievable if and when the need arises.

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