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What to expect from a HMRC visit
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What's the protocol when HMRC officers visit business premises?
There are two types of visits HMRC officers can make to your business premises - arranged visits and unannounced visits. During a HMRC visit, you should expect HMRC officers to request company records. They will inform you of which accounts they wish to view before the visit unless the visit is unannounced.
The thought of HMRC officers visiting your business can be daunting, but you can find out more detail about why they are visiting and how long the visit might last. It is a good idea to request this information in writing, so you can make preparations to limit the disruption on the day.
If you’re wondering what might have triggered a visit to your business, it may be a routine tax inspection, or random business records check to make sure you are complying with their regulations.
Most visits from HMRC are pre-arranged and generally provide seven days’ notice, so you can prepare well in advance to minimise potential problems.
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An HMRC officer may phone you to arrange a time to visit. You should request written confirmation of: Date and time of the visit, and expected duration
- Name of the HMRC visiting officer
- Why you have been chosen
- Which records they will need to see
They may take the records away with them, or inspect them at your premises if they are ‘reasonably required’ for their investigation. The officer is not permitted to search your premises for documents or files, but should be escorted around your workplace nonetheless.
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Having received confirmation of the records they want to inspect, you can prepare them in advance and make sure that no additional documents are included or in view. It is advisable to warn your staff of the impending visit so they can ensure nothing is left lying around that could harm your position with HMRC.
The inspector might attempt to talk to your staff on an ‘informal’ basis, but beware that these conversations could ultimately affect the outcome of their inspection. It is also important to note down what is said during the inspection, and what decisions are made, being sure to obtain these decisions in writing.
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In some instances, HMRC officers may turn up at your premises unannounced. This normally happens if they believe a taxpayer will try to cover up a deliberate attempt to defraud, or if they have been refused access to business premises on several previous occasions.
Occasionally, there will have been an accidental oversight in failing to inform you of the visit, in which case it will be a routine inspection. You could request that they return on another day if you wish, so you can make sure your accountant is present, and that your records are prepared.
If HMRC officers arrive with a written notice signed by a Tribunal or Authorised Officer, you should ask for identification, but are not obliged to let them into your premises as they do not hold an automatic right of entry - the formal notice is only a request to enter.
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You may receive a financial penalty of £300 for failing to comply with an HMRC notice, or deliberately obstructing an officer during their visit. Actions might include destroying or deliberately concealing records or information requested by HMRC. Further penalties of £60 per day may follow. If errors are found in documents, fines of up to £3,000 can be applied.
Real Business Rescue can help you in your dealings with HMRC. We have extensive experience of HMRC inspections, and will provide the professional guidance you need at this worrying time. Call one of our expert team to arrange a same day consultation free of charge.
Further Reading on What happens when HMRC want to visit my business?
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