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HMRC internal manual

VAT Assessments and Error Correction

HM Revenue & Customs
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Power of assessment: Best judgement: Calculating arrears using observations

The following are examples of how officers have used observations to calculate arrears.

Example 1

Six days of random observations covering all days of the week except Monday. The tribunal found that the observations, though in no way producing a scientifically accurate result, revealed that the officers’ suspicions were on the face of it well founded. Case: K. Sedat t/a Sherrys Kebab and burger bar - LON/90/1780

Example 2

A drinks to meal exercise revealed a suspected under-declaration of tax. On six occasions during the summer a team of two officers ate in the restaurant and undertook internal observations. The days covered were a Friday and Saturday plus one quiet midweek day.

The tribunal concluded that the observations were well organised and executed and that their restricted view of the entire restaurant was covered by visits to the toilet. Average meal prices were calculated from declared bills from the observation days. The assessments were upheld in full. Case Khyber Pass (Woking) Ltd. -LON/90/1889.

Example 3

External observations were made on four nights and covered the entire opening hours. In addition, an unannounced visit was made to ascertain the level of one days trading. Test purchases were made and till roll analysis taken. The suppression rate was calculated by using observations evidence as compared to average declared takings over seventeen weeks. The tribunal upheld the assessment. Case Tit Keung Chan - EDN/96/102 &106.

Example 4

Assessments were made and notified based on two days observation evidence. There was also evidence of suppressed purchases in the period prior to the period being assessed.

Suppression was accepted for an earlier period due to a significant increase in declared takings after the investigation was started. As there was other evidence, the tribunal accepted that two nights observations were reasonable.

It would seem from the decision that observation evidence on its own would not have been sufficient to establish best judgement. Case Mr &Mrs Li t/a Taiwan Chinese Take Away. - MAN 97/220.

Example 5

Teams of officers undertook covert internal observations over four nights trading. A sketch plan of the restaurant was used as a tool for the observations.

The tribunal found that the plan was unacceptably inaccurate and that the officers should have corrected it during the course of the observations. Also, as the officers were sat in booths, their view of the restaurant was impaired to such an extent as to make their observations unreliable. The business’s appeal was allowed despite other evidence of suppression. Case Koon Wong Lam, t/a Dragon Inn - MAN/96/244.