HMRC Tax Disputes Taking Over Three Years To Resolve

04 December 2018
Author: Polly Lloyd

Companies are facing greater inconvenience and expense as the duration of HMRC investigations continues to grow. The average time large businesses can now expect inquiries to last is 39 months. The 2016-17 typical time was 34 months, up from 31 months in the previous financial year.

There are a number of possible explanations for this increase. Many businesses and private practice lawyers point to the more aggressive approach being taken by HMRC, including an unwillingness to settle cases and a real lack of resources to manage concurrent large-scale investigations. Some also suggest that having resolved simpler cases and dealt with the “low hanging fruit”, HMRC has now turned its attention to more complex multi-jurisdictional business entities, which necessarily entail longer investigations.

Whatever the cause, the consequences for large businesses remain the same: disruption to financial planning and budgeting and increases in cost, time and resources directed towards cooperating with HMRC. There is also greater risk of potential reputational damage caused by such enquiries, which unless carefully handled, can become public and have a knock-on effect on share price for listed companies.

HMRC’s Large Business Directorate leads investigations into the tax affairs of the UK’s biggest businesses. Its investigations enabled it to secure more than £8bn in additional tax revenue in 2017. It states that “at any one time, we will be actively investigating more than half of the UK’s 2,100 largest businesses.”

More companies are looking to specialist investigations and dispute resolution firms that have strong relations with HMRC to ensure such matters are managed as efficiently as possible and with minimum effect on their business.

JHA’s investigations team is made up of specialist and highly experienced solicitors and barristers, forensic accountants, former regulators and data scientists, uniquely sitting under one roof. JHA is also a leading firm in contentious tax, having achieved Band One rankings in both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for the fifth consecutive year.

 

Data in this article was originally published by the Financial Times.

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Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK (Published in Thought Leaders 4 Private Client)

Advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. To compound the issue, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout prompted domestic governments to increase transparency in relation to investments held by wealthy foreign individuals (with a focus on oligarchs).

In the UK, in the context of the cost-of-living crisis, public opinion certainly seems to be in favour of increased accountability for high-net-worth individuals (eg, on 9 October 2022, 63% of Britons surveyed thought that “the rich are not paying enough and their taxes should be increased”).1

HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work; they are well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly considering the already extensive network of 130 bilateral tax treaties in the UK (the largest in the world).2 The UK was also a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.

This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and personal tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.

It should be noted that a somewhat piecemeal approach, with constant tinkering makes compliance difficult for the taxpayer and is often criticised for lacking the certainty that a stable tax system needs to thrive.

This article was first published with ThoughtLeaders4 Private Client Magazine

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