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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