Code of Practice 9 investigations
If you have been contacted by HMRC’s Fraud Investigations Service or FIS, it is likely that you are suspected of serious tax avoidance or evasion. The investigation will be under:
- Code of Practice 8 which relates to bespoke tax avoidance schemes where investigation for tax fraud is not seen as necessary or appropriate; or
- Code of Practice 9 where tax fraud or dishonesty is suspected and (usually) a large amount of tax is at stake.
The investigation could relate to income tax, capital gains tax, VAT, SDLT, Inheritance tax or one or more of these, plus any of the other taxes administered by HMRC.
Either way, HMRC have you firmly in their sights and you should not think that they can be fobbed off or avoided. Even if you believe that HMRC are mistaken in their suspicion and there is a simple or an honest explanation, it is essential that you deal with the investigation seriously and engage in some way with HMRC even if only to deny any wrongdoing.
Ideally, you should appoint an experienced lawyer to represent you with HMRC. This will not only ensure that you have someone to act as a buffer between you and HMRC throughout what can be a very worrying and anxiety-inducing experience, but also to ensure that you maximise your chances of resolving the investigation without serious consequences for you, such as prosecution, penalties for deliberate behaviour and publication of your name as a tax defaulter.
Appointing a direct access barrister from the beginning instead of a solicitor, non-legally qualified tax accountant or ex-HMRC investigator can save you paying out fees for two or even three sets of professional advisers. Here’s why. If matters proceed to an interview under caution, or you are arrested or criminal proceedings are begun you will then need to brief a lawyer and incur additional professional fees bringing them up to speed on what can often be a lot of complex financial detail.
Appointing a direct access barrister instead of a solicitor from the start can also avoid the need for a solicitor to then brief a barrister to represent you in court thus offering you a further considerable saving in professional fees. The barrister can also liaise with your accountant if you have one or recommend one for you.
Patrick Cannon is highly experienced in COP 9 HMRC investigations and in acting for clients subject to such investigations, including corresponding with and meeting HMRC investigators with clients and defending clients in criminal tax proceedings.