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Our highly experienced tax solicitors can help you deal with or prepare for an HMRC tax investigation with cost-effective advice, representation and support.
If HMRC suspects that you’ve underpaid tax or under-reported income, they'll initially open enquiries into returns already submitted. In many cases, their enquiries are concluded quickly through correspondence. If not, HMRC can look into your finances with a Code of Practice (COP) 8 or 9 investigation.
UK tax law is always changing and is more complex than ever, especially if you have a large income, complicated international investments, or non-domicile status.
It’s easy to get things wrong and you could face substantial fines, reputational damage, or even criminal charges if you do.
Our highly experienced tax solicitors may be able to help you avoid and mitigate tax penalties by:
Assessing tax risk
Dealing with HMRC correspondence
Advising on how to respond to HMRC enquiries
Assisting with voluntary and involuntary tax disclosures
Representing you at meetings
Preparing for civil or criminal litigation in courts or tribunals
Keeping your personal tax information private.
If you’re facing a tax investigation, you should seek legal help as soon as possible to reduce the risk of heavy penalties. However, our tax lawyers can get involved at any point – even if you’re under investigation already or simply want to prepare in case you’re targeted.
We can also advise individuals, businesses, or trusts on regulatory and compliance issues to help prevent investigations happening in the first place.
Our team of tax solicitors are experienced with all forms of tax investigations, as well as the civil or criminal litigation that sometimes follows. We regularly deal with HMRC and related government authorities and have a large roster of talented tax specialists that we can call on to consult on your case.
The quicker you respond to a tax investigation the better – contact us online or phone us on 0370 1500 100 and make sure you’re as well prepared as possible.
Extensive experience of dealing with HMRC enquiries
Offices across the UK
Experts in negotiating settlements and penalty disputes with HMRC
One of the largest tax teams in the UK with chartered tax advisers and accountants
There are three main types of tax investigation that are carried out by HMRC. These are often referred to as a Section 9A enquiry, a Code of Practice 8 (COP8) and Code of Practice 9 (COP9).
They are not criminal investigations and don’t always lead to criminal prosecution. However, HMRC can start criminal investigations and prosecution if you don’t comply or they find evidence of serious offences.
Section 9A enquiries are used by HMRC to review information entered on your self-assessment tax return. These can relate to a particular aspect of your tax return or a random review of your submission. They are usually conducted through written communication with HMRC.
COP8 investigations are used if HMRC suspects you of tax avoidance or minor fraud. They usually involve a series of informal meetings and correspondence between you and HMRC to identify any underpaid tax.
COP9 investigations are used when HMRC suspects you of serious fraud but hasn’t started a criminal investigation. You must give HMRC a detailed report about your tax affairs, as well as anything you’ve done – deliberately or not – that has caused any irregularities.
Once the investigation has settled on a value for any unpaid tax (including interest), you and HMRC negotiate a penalty payment based on your behaviour before and during the investigation. You will pay less of a penalty if you are helpful and cooperative.
Most civil tax investigations end with you and HMRC agreeing on how much tax and how much of a penalty you should pay. You don’t need to go to court if this is the case.
If you can’t reach a mutual agreement and disagree with HMRC’s decision on the case, you can make an appeal and begin litigation in either civil court or a tribunal.
If HMRC starts a criminal investigation against you and finds evidence of criminal offences, you may have to go to court to face criminal prosecution.
Whatever type of tax dispute you’re involved with, it is vital to seek legal advice and representation as early as possible. This will give you the best chance of resolving your dispute without going to court.
If you do have to go to court, our solicitors can also advise, represent, and support you throughout.
If you’re unhappy with the outcome of the HMRC investigation, you can request an internal review. This will be carried out by another HMRC officer who has no previous involvement with the case. They can either confirm or change the figures of the original investigation.
If you’re still unhappy, you can appeal the decision in a civil court or tribunal – this starts the litigation process.
During litigation, you and HMRC present evidence for your different tax calculations. The court or tribunal will decide on the correct tax figure.
If they find that you’ve underpaid, you’ll get a deadline to pay the difference, plus interest and a penalty payment. You may be allowed to make payments in instalments.
If you fail to make any required payments, you may face criminal prosecution.
Although HMRC handles minor tax avoidance and fraud cases with civil litigation, more serious offences risk criminal prosecution. These can include:
Income tax evasion
Cheating the public revenue
Providing false documents or information to HMRC
Smuggling or fraudulent evasion of excise duty on imported goods (e.g. cigarettes, alcohol)
There are now more criminal prosecutions for tax offences than ever before. If you’re facing tax litigation of any kind, you must get legal advice as soon as possible. Call us on 0370 1500 100 and speak to our team confidentially today.
You must pay any unpaid tax along with interest calculated since the date the tax was due. The additional penalties will depend on what type of litigation you are going through:
Civil – You can negotiate a monetary penalty with HMRC based on the amount of unpaid tax, whether or not the missed payment was deliberate, and how cooperative you’ve been during the investigation. If you can’t negotiate a penalty, it will be decided in court or tribunal. HMRC can publicly publish information about penalties above certain thresholds.
Criminal – A criminal prosecution can result in a fine, imprisonment or both. In either case, you must still pay back the tax as well. You may also be ordered to pay the prosecution’s costs. Tax evasion is taken extremely seriously and is often punished with severe penalties.
You may also be prosecuted under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2017. Your possessions can be confiscated if you are convicted of money laundering.
Our solicitors may be help you avoid civil or criminal penalties or negotiate less severe penalties. Contact us online or phone us on 0370 1500 100 for more information.
Irwin Mitchell are a very professional, trustworthy and straightforward company to deal with. I would recommend them to anyone."