The journalist's tale

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Simon Sweetman
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Nick Morgan has produced an e-book, Tax Investigation for Dummies, based on his own experiences of a self assessment enquiry which he has detailed over the last year or two on his website. It is subtitled Everything you wanted to know about a tax investigation but were too afraid (or too skint) to ask.

Nick has had his own enquiry and his experiences make horrible reading, partly because he blundered into a quite unnecessary situation, and partly because he then thrashed about rather like a wasp in a spider's web, demanding his rights even when he wasn't sure what they were, annoying most of HMRC in the South of England, scoring an excellent point when he applied to see his file using the Data Protection Act (and remarkably got to see his risk scores, which suggest HMRC was...

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By Anonymous
13th Jul 2009 15:15

What happens when...
... Nick gets a cease and desist order from Wiley for calling his book '... for Dummies'? There are several examples on the internet:

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By Anonymous
13th Jul 2009 17:09

It'll be a topic for his next book and website
once he has exhausted HMRC as a subject. I wonder what he would have been writing about if he had not been the subject of an enquiry?

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14th Jul 2009 11:20

Subject of an enquiry / Out of date / Representation
Reply to "I wonder what he would have been writing about if he had not been the subject of an enquiry?"

Firstly, I'd say that it was more like an investigation than an enquiry! My other work can be seen at

Simon, you say that parts of the e-book are out of date. It has been checked over by five tax experts - what do you think needs updating?

Finally, I think it's worth pointing out that my advice for anybody involved in a HMRC investigation is to get good representation.


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14th Jul 2009 14:59

New "compliance" or "check"
The new compliance process - or checks as I think they will be called only started in April 2009 and as such the jury is out on exactly what these will look and feel like. I think that would probably be the main issue that dates the book - it may well be very different under the new regime - we just don't know yet. Any references to penalties etc have been replaced by a new regime that also commenced in April 2009 - but that regime will only apply to 2009 returns for income tax so we're still on a two speed system for a while with both old and new penalties in play. Interest charged on overdue tax will also change but that will start later - it's in the Finance Bill 2009.

I get a sense that checks will be very different in future to old enquiries (we call them that because that's the technical name for them). But I suspect that it will be three or four years before we really know the difference. I would however suggest that this is the intention - the overall outcome is intended to REDUCE the burden of compliance on small businesses "who have most to gain" (quoting Gus O'Donnell - 2003 O'Donnell Report) "from a more coherent approach". This, folks is what HM Revenue and Customs was created for - so that smaller businesses would benefit from reduced compliance burden.....Don't hold your collective breath for too long, you might pass out!

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14th Jul 2009 16:54

Reply to Rebecca
I think it's reasonable to say that the e-book is right up-to-date if it is impossible to do anything to make it more contemporary! Simon has close links with HMRC, perhaps he could throw more light on this.


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14th Jul 2009 18:11

I don't disagree Nick
Your book is as current as it can be at the moment, but maybe Simon has views about how it might change. I don't think even HMRC compliance officers - or those designing the new powers - have a clear idea of what it will feel like on the ground in the future, but I suspect that we are all hoping that neither taxpayers nor agents have to go through "tax hell" much more. Maybe I'm an optimist!

Your real issue in publishing now is that everything, and I mean everything is changing. Welcome to the world of tax! 2009 is, however, unprecedented even for the fast changing world we live in!

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15th Jul 2009 11:32

I agree Rebecca
Printed books on tax are now out of date just months after they come off the press while e-books and websites (like this one) can be easily updated and so give up-to-date information at a fraction of the cost.

It’s a new world.

I’ll be updating the e-book as things change at HMRC and everybody who has bought a copy will have the chance to get an updated version.

As for optimism, I’m all for that! But I’m yet to see any legislation that suggests HMRC is going to restrain ‘overzealous’ investigators.


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