Is a meeting necessary?
Meetings can be time consuming and inconvenient. Always consider whether a meeting with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is necessary or not. They may be seen as confrontational.
An alternative may be to correspond in writing, allowing time to carefully consider the answers to questions.
If you do choose to meet with HMRC, be aware that how you conduct yourself at the meeting may dictate how the future of a tax investigation unfolds. Don’t forget, if penalties may apply, penalties are now based on a taxpayer’s behaviour.
Mind your language!
You should bear in mind that the English language is sometimes subject to being misconstrued. It is often the case that if say 3 people are in a room and hear the same paragraph of text that all 3 people present will have 3 different understandings of what was just said. This is particularly likely if you are feeling under pressure in a meeting and not communicating at your best.
Prior to the meeting, take time to consider what you want to say. During the meeting, make sure that your answers are always clear, concise and accurate.
Who should attend the meeting?
Most meetings with HMRC will have 2 people present from HMRC – the case worker and a note taker. The note taker is often unconnected with the case but sometimes may be a superior officer who has an interest in the proceedings.
In more complex cases, there may be 4, 5 or 6 people from HMRC. The reason being is that each person has their own specialism such as VAT, employment taxes etc..
The taxpayer should consider “taking ownership” of the matter and be present. As to how actively the taxpayer participates in the meeting should not always be prejudged. Sometimes it is better that the taxpayer says nothing but makes a note of the questions being asked. The adviser should control the meeting but the needs to be both experienced in both handling an investigation and HMRC powers.
What should be provided at a meeting with HMRC?
By the taxpayer and the adviser – very little if anything at all. Comfort may be sought in taking numerous files but this can enable HMRC to gain access to them.
A file that contains a plethora of multicoloured Post-It notes may signal more problems than HMRC had considered.
If any documentation is requested by HMRC at the meeting, due consideration should taken as to whether HMRC are entitled to it outside of the meeting. Often documentation should be redacted to show only what is intended.
Should any notes be taken?
Yes – by both sides.
Moreover, HMRC will seek to take notes with the caveat that they will not be verbatim.
HMRC may ask the taxpayer to sign a ‘Note of Meeting’. This should be resisted. That said, the ‘Note of Meeting’ should be reviewed carefully and any proposed amendments should be sent to HMRC for their consideration and accepatance.
What happens next?
Meetings can cover a number of areas quickly and can clarify matters efficiently. However, any advantage gained can be quickly lost if there is no clear way forward at its conclusion.
We can attend a meeting with you to ensure that it is properly conducted and to help give clear direction as to what happens next.