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HMRC internal manual

Technical Teams Operational Guidance

Investigation work: opening under Code 8: taxpayers attendance at opening meetings

The taxpayers to be invited to the opening meeting will usually be those who are recorded on the case record as the participants in the case. The issue of invitations is however an opportunity to re-consider who should be a participant and who should not. Peripheral individuals can be re-designated as associates.

The general rule is to invite to the opening meeting those individuals who are the beneficiaries of the tax planning or who have an executive or proprietary interest in the business where the suspected tax avoidance is believed to have occurred.

In many cases there is no difficulty at all. It is clear who needs to be invited. In other cases matters are less obvious and in a few the issue is one of considerable difficulty.

Where matters are not clear, each case must be considered on its merits. The issues should be discussed between the Investigator and the Team Leader. The reason why particular choices are made should be evident from the file.

Problem areas include:

  • The sheer numbers involved in some cases can make a single meeting impossible. Where in a case there are many directors - sometimes with separate personal advisers, corporate advisers, legal advisers, specialists etc - the number of people involved can make the arrangements very difficult.
  • A particular problem can arise where a company has been sold. The new owners may, as far as is known, be innocent of the tax planning giving rise to the suspected tax loss. Nonetheless, the company is a legal person and it is to the company that all or much of any additional liability will attach itself.
  • Should the new directors/shareholders be invited to the opening meeting along with their predecessors?
  • Should there be two separate meetings and in what sequence should they be?
  • (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)
  • (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

We cannot compel anyone to attend a meeting under Code 8 or insist that they remain present if they want to leave during such a meeting.

If at all possible, it should be established prior to the meeting who is to attend on the other side and for what purpose. This will eliminate the element of surprise and save some time at the outset.