I don't like meetings. By Simon Sweetman

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Simon Sweetman responds to his critic; "So, after all these years, am I still an inspector of Taxes at heart?"

It is true that I believe that HMRC is changing the way it does compliance, and I think it is changing for the better despite all the genuine worries about new powers. I think this because I see the evidence of intention to change : it has to be said that the proof of the pudding here is going to be what happens in real offices to real taxpayers. And it is also true that the way the process of merger and change has been handled has caused a great deal of pain and inefficiency throughout the system and most of that pain has been felt by taxpayers : but we ma...

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By Anonymous
23rd Jul 2008 16:20

Humans not Robots?
I suppose that if this string illustrates anything it is the fact that HMRC officers are as variable as any other group of human beings. That being so it is perhaps unhelpful to consider them as if they were an homogeneous group.

Whereas one or two people's experiences have been (very broadly) positive, Nick's has clearly been anything but...

What should not be variable are the guidelines that each officer has to follow. For example:
EM1836 "Above all, never in any circumstances use words or phrases which could be construed by the taxpayer as a threat. "

Or what about this:
EM1875 "Unless you are reasonably certain that there have been understatements - and often it will not be possible for you to be certain at this stage - you should ask the taxpayer in a neutral way whether there is anything further that he or she has to tell you, taking account of what you have said. You should make it clear that you are not making any allegations at this point."

These are quite categorical instructions and one is entitled to complain (and be heeded) where they are not followed.

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22nd Jul 2008 14:46

Bullying Tactics
I just don't understand how you can say there is paranoia about meetings in one breath and then with the next acknowledge that reducing taxpayers to tears in meetings created job satisfaction for HMRC officers!

There are a list of 12 dirty tricks at www.tax-hell.co.uk . Help me - if you can - to change the dirty dozen into a filthy thirty and let’s put a stop to this bullying behaviour from HMRC.

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21st Jul 2008 21:08

Like Peter I like meetings and have never been afraid of bullies and such - as they can easily be shown to be unworthy and exactly where they are lacking. However I have to say that I would never be too ready in following the expensive route - for the client - of going to the Commissioners.

Clearly the better channel is to properly prepare for "agenda" meetings where they can clearly be seen as an effective tool for getting a resolution to a sticky or difficult problem. Equally I also consider that there is nothing to beat a proper preparation for such a meeting by covering (but not covering up) the areas that are on the agenda - in part to stop the sort of situation that SS's client took it upon himself to surprise both him and the Inspector.

As to client's crying this is not a bad thing - when the Inspector has cracked a funny during the course of his friendly chat.

Equally I have to admit an interest in what Simon refers to about engaging a specialist but I would suggest that perhaps his comments have been taken loosely. Clearly if a specialists fees will be covered by the tax saved then clearly there will be a knock on effect in both interest and penalties. Anyway that is of course if there is unpaid tax in the first place. Sometimes it needs the specialist to think out of the box or use his/her experience and expertise to safeguard the client's rights if matters have not progressed satisfactorily.

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By nerys
21st Jul 2008 19:10

I do like meetings
I rarely comment but I must disagree with Simon on the subject of meetings. I hope, by now, that the local HMRC are aware that my refusal to attend a meeting gives the opposite message i.e. that I do not have any worries that I know something about my client's affairs that I don’t want to tell HMRC. If I knew something like that the first thing I would have done is organised a meeting and told the Revenue ( we should not be in the business of hiding irregularities) I certainly do not think that I "will be bullied and not be able to handle it." I quite enjoy meetings but do not want to indulge in my pleasures at the expense of my client. My principal concern with early meetings is that, with the best will in the world, inspectors do use meetings as "fishing expeditions". Clients will make innocent comments which lead the Inspector away from the original thrust of the enquiry down innocent and unproductive cul-de-sacs. Consequently a great deal of time and effort has to be put in to prove that there are no problems in those areas and to get us back onto track. Therefore, before I will agree to a meeting I want us to be very focussed on the areas to be resolved and to be very sure that there is likely to be a possibility of resolution. I am not going to waste my time in technical arguement with an Inspector if he has not got the authority to make an executive decision. I would rather present those arguements to the Commissioners.

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By Johhny
18th Jul 2008 16:26

I'll second that
Simon, as you know I am an investigations specialist so I do have a vested interest. However, my main interest is in making sure that matters are properly squared away with HMRC, the best settlement is reached in the circumstances, due regard is given to the client's rights and the boundaries of HMRC's powers are not breached.

I get a lot of my work by way of referrals from small firms, either to take on a case (perhaps part way through) or to give a particularly knotty case a cold review. There are notable exceptions but most of the cases I see have been handled poorly - it is both preferable and advantageous for the client to have a case dealt with properly in the first place rather than having to repair and regain control of a badly handled case. Not engaging specialists in appropriate circumstances is not only against the guide to professional conduct endorsed by the main tax bodies, it is also a false economy.

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17th Jul 2008 18:19

Not necessarily, if the agent has insurance
but there in lies another scam of sorts, I suppose. Ultimately, the underwriters will make a profit, and that will be at someone's expense. Evens it out a bit, perhaps

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17th Jul 2008 17:34

One way or another ...
"it will cost the client money in fees. That money will almost certainly be saved in tax,"

So the client is no better off - he either gets mugged by HMRC or charged by the specialist to arrive at the "fair" amount of tax ...

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