Topic overview

Tax problems and investigations

Tax problems and investigations

Complying with each and every tax rule can be complex. It's no surprise that some businesses face tax problems from time to time. Add to which the stress of a routine tax inspection, even when you have nothing to hide, it's no wonder many businesses worry about tax compliance.

If you have tax problems or face a tax investigation, it pays to seek professional advice and act quickly rather than just hoping for the best.

Tax compliance

Basic compliance is easy enough. It involves keeping the right records, filing the right returns and making your tax payments when required. It's worth remembering that failure to do so can lead to substantial tax penalties.

Taking advice from a qualified and reliable source makes tax compliance easier as it will identify what you need to do. You can also get help to set up systems that make life easier. This may include organising financial services (eg bookkeeping) or recruiting others to help you. This approach to tax compliance can pay for itself very quickly by minimising the tax you pay, reducing the time you and your accountant waste dealing with disorganised paperwork and by ensuring you claim all the allowable expenses and reliefs.

Tax investigations and inspections

Even if your tax compliance is perfect, you might face tax investigations or inspections from time to time. For example, a VAT-registered business can expect a routine tax inspection every few years to check your tax compliance systems.

An in-depth tax investigation is more likely if your business is in an industry that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has chosen to focus on. HMRC occasionally targets an industry where they suspect tax compliance is poor. Apart from that, you can minimise your chances of a tax investigation by ensuring that your own tax compliance is as efficient as possible.

If you are notified of a tax investigation or inspection, you may want to take advice or have your tax adviser present during the visit. Professional advice can be particularly useful if you face a tax investigation (as opposed to a routine tax inspection).

If you know you have made tax errors in the past - accidentally or deliberately - you may want to discuss this with your tax adviser. Voluntary disclosure may be a better option than waiting to be caught out by a tax investigation.

Tax problems: payment

A completely different tax problem arises if your financial position causes tax payment problems.

Delaying payment is not a solution. You are likely to face tax penalties that simply magnify the original tax problem. Ultimately you could face legal action. Instead, you need to take an active approach to dealing with your tax problem.

Contact the HMRC business payment support service on 0300 200 3835 as soon as possible. You may be able to negotiate a payment schedule to help you overcome your tax payment problems.

Of course, the best solution is to avoid tax problems in the first place. Effective tax compliance systems can provide early warning of upcoming tax bills and your overall cash flow position, giving you more time to deal with any cash flow shortfall.

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