Complying with each and every tax rule can be complex. It’s no surprise that many businesses face tax problems, while even the most routine tax inspections can be stressful, even when you have nothing to hide.
If you have tax problems or face a tax investigation, it pays to seek professional advice and you must act rather than just hoping for the best.
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.
Reliable advice makes tax compliance easier by identifying what you need to do. You can also get help to set up systems that make life easier. This may include organising services (eg bookkeeping) or recruiting others to help you. This approach to tax compliance can pay for itself, reducing the time you and your accountant waste dealing with disorganised paperwork.
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, checking 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.
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 problem.
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 cashflow position, giving you more time to deal with any cashflow shortfall.
Find more articles, advice and tools on tax problems and investigations in the Resources box on the right.