What to expect from a HMRC visit


What's the protocol when HMRC officers visit business premises?When it comes to visits from HMRC officers to your business premises, there are two types: arranged visits and unannounced visits.

During an HMRC visit, it is important to anticipate that the officers will request access to your company records. In the case of arranged visits, they will inform you beforehand about the specific accounts they intend to review.

However, if the visit is unannounced, this prior notification may not be provided.

It is essential to be prepared and have your company records organized and readily available to ensure a smooth interaction with HMRC officers during their visit

What’s the protocol when HMRC officers visit business premises?

When HMRC officers visit business premises, there is a standard protocol to follow to ensure a smooth and compliant interaction. First and foremost, it is crucial to verify the identity of the officers by asking for their official identification and credentials. Once their identity is confirmed, the officers will typically explain the purpose of their visit and which specific accounts or records they wish to review.

They may request access to financial documents, such as invoices, receipts, bank statements, and payroll records. It is important to provide the requested information promptly and accurately. During the visit, it is advisable to keep a record of the officers’ names, badge numbers, and the date and time of their visit for future reference.

It is also within your rights to seek professional advice or have a representative present during the visit. Cooperating with HMRC officers and maintaining open communication will help ensure a compliant and efficient process during their presence at your business premises

Arranged visits from HMRC

When contacted by an HMRC officer to schedule a visit, it is advisable to ask for written confirmation, ensuring important details are documented. This written confirmation should include the date and time of the visit, as well as an estimated duration. Additionally, it is essential to obtain the name of the HMRC visiting officer for reference.

Requesting written confirmation helps establish a clear understanding of the visit’s logistics. In the written confirmation, it is also appropriate to inquire about the reason behind your selection for the visit, providing you with valuable context. Furthermore, it is crucial to clarify which specific records the HMRC officer will require access to during the visit.

Depending on the investigation’s nature, the officer may either inspect the records on-site or, if reasonably necessary, take them away for further examination.

While the officer is not authorized to search your premises for documents or files, it is customary for them to be escorted throughout your workplace.

By following these guidelines and ensuring written confirmation of essential details, you can ensure a transparent and compliant process during an HMRC officer’s visit to your business premises

Day of the visit

After receiving written confirmation of the specific records that HMRC intends to inspect during their visit, it is prudent to prepare those documents in advance. Take care to exclude any additional documents from view or inclusion to avoid any unintended consequences. It is advisable to inform your staff about the upcoming visit so that they can ensure no potentially damaging materials are left exposed.

It is worth noting that while the inspector may attempt to engage your staff in informal conversations, it is crucial to be cautious as these discussions can potentially impact the inspection’s outcome. Keeping a record of what is said and any decisions made during the inspection is essential.

It is highly recommended to request written documentation of these decisions to maintain clarity and accurate records. By following these precautions and maintaining careful documentation, you can help protect your position and ensure a smooth interaction with HMRC during their visit to your business premises

When visits are unannounced

In certain situations, HMRC officers may make unannounced visits to your premises. Typically, this occurs when they suspect deliberate fraud or if access to the business premises has been repeatedly denied in the past. However, there are instances where the lack of prior notification is simply due to an accidental oversight, resulting in a routine inspection.

If you prefer to have your accountant present or need additional time to prepare your records, you have the option to request that the officers return on another day. It’s important to note that if the HMRC officers arrive with a written notice signed by a Tribunal or Authorised Officer, you should ask for identification.

However, you are not obligated to grant them entry to your premises as they do not possess an automatic right of entry. The written notice serves as a request to enter, and you have the discretion to decide whether to allow them access or not

Penalties for obstructing an HMRC officer

You may receive a financial penalty of £300 for failing to comply with an HMRC notice, or deliberately obstructing an officer during their visit. Actions might include destroying or deliberately concealing records or information requested by HMRC. Further penalties of £60 per day may follow. If errors are found in documents, fines of up to £3,000 can be applied.

We can help you in your dealings with HMRC. We have extensive experience of HMRC inspections, and will provide the professional guidance you need at this worrying time. Call one of our expert team to arrange a same day consultation free of charge.

Steve Jones Profile
Insolvency & Restructuring Expert at Business Insolvency Helpline

With over three decades of experience in the business and turnaround sector, Steve Jones is one of the founders of Business Insolvency Helpline. With specialist knowledge of Insolvency, Liquidations, Administration, Pre-packs, CVA, MVL, Restructuring Advice and Company investment.