If you are faced with a criminal investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), knowing where to begin with a response can seem daunting, particularly when you are faced with the strict timescales for cooperation.
At Lawtons, our specialist regulatory law solicitors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days per year. We can react quickly to any HMRC query where there are suggestions of criminal wrongdoing, working with you through the whole process to ensure you achieve the best outcome for you and your business.
Tax legislation can often seem exceptionally complicated with the number of government departments and police bodies potentially involved in the investigation of a breach, alongside the steps required to ensure full compliance and due diligence.
What is the role of HMRC in upholding the law?
HMRC – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – is one of the UK’s largest law enforcement agencies. Their aim is to ensure equality and compliance for businesses and individuals.
- State support payments
- The collection of taxes
- Regulatory regimes including the minimum wage
The agency will investigate individuals or organisations that are not declaring their full business activity or avoiding paying their required amount of tax, along with those that are accruing debt.
How can HMRC investigate potential offences?
An important part of HMRC’s overall enforcement strategy is criminal investigation, which is used for the majority as a warning strategy to other individuals or companies.
As part of an investigation, HMRC may:
- Make arrests
- Apply for search warrants for business and home addresses of associated persons
- Search suspects and premises following arrest
- Apply for orders requiring information to be produced
- Apply for bank accounts to be frozen, and assets to be seized, frozen or even confiscated.
In more serious cases HMRC can also apply for permission to use intrusive surveillance powers which could include property interference or even the interception of post and telecommunications. This activity has to be personally approved by the Home Secretary.
HMRC investigations can prove intrusive to a company’s operation or an individual’s lifestyle, so if you are facing an investigation you should seek
specialist legal advice as soon as you are able to do so.
How can solicitors help if you are accused of an HMRC offence?
HMRC investigations are often complex and take many months, and sometimes years, to be completed. The nature of the investigations can sometimes involve multiple different people, companies and institutions, so it is vital to have experts that specialise in this complex area of law and who understand the procedures.
We can offer in-depth expert advice, guidance and support through the entire investigatory process as well as providing immediate representation to protect your position and, where appropriate, to show you are co-operating with HMRC.
We can also operate – where appropriate – with indemnity insurers, or work with you to organise affordable payment plans, or fixed stage fees that accommodate HMRC demands.
For more information or to discuss an individual case with our team of specialist HMRC solicitors, please get in touch.
Can HMRC go back 20 years during a tax investigation?
Although HMRC could go back 20 years during a tax investigation, they usually go back 6 years.
Can HMRC take your home?
No, HMRC can’t seize your home to recover your company’s tax debts if your home is in your name. However, in certain circumstances and depending on what is alleged, HMRC can apply to the court under the Proceeds of Crime legislation for property to be forfeited or confiscated – in some situations a house can be sold to realise what is deemed to have been the benefit from the proceeds of criminal activity.
Can HMRC seize assets?
Yes, HMRC can seize items like vehicles, machinery, stock and IT equipment which they can sell to recoup the debt. This only happens when you have not paid the money owed after a visit from an HMRC officer. The officer will make a list of the possessions that they can sell.
Do I have to pay UK tax if I live abroad?
Yes, you can still be a UK resident for tax and live abroad. For example, if you visit the UK for more than 183 days in a tax year.