Josiah Hincks’ Business Defence team can help you when the taxman comes knocking on your door. HMRC, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, can call upon your business or personal tax affairs at any time and you need the best defence to deal with them.
Our combination of business class lawyers work in tandom with your accountant (or others we can recommend) to ensure the situation is dealt with as smoothly as possible.
An investigation by HMRC can have profound implications for a business and those involved in its management. It is essential that expert legal advice and representation is obtained as early as possible once the tax affairs of a business comes under criminal investigation if the matter is to be successfully defended and the business is to survive the investigation process.
The Josiah Hincks business defence team can provide expert advice and representation in these keys areas of a HMRC investigation and prosecution:
Initial consultation and advice – You may receive notification from HMRC that your business is to be the subject of a tax investigation. At this stage you should consult with one of our experts to review your accounting and tax arrangements to determine what issues the investigators will be concerned with and to determine whether any tax rules and regulations have been breached.
Representation during interview – As part of the HMRC investigation you may be invited for a voluntary interview regarding the tax arrangements of your business. Although this may be on a voluntary basis you will be interviewed as a “suspect” where everything you say will be recorded and will be used during any subsequent court case. As such you will have the right to be represented during that interview by a solicitor. It is essential that you exercise that right as the outcome of case is very often determined by the account given in the initial interview.
Representation at the police station – You may not be extended the opportunity to attend a voluntary interview and instead the officers may decide you should be interviewed whilst under arrest. This can be an extremely distressing experience during which you may be detained in a police cell for many hours before subjected to a formal interview regarding your tax affairs and asked to account for evidence gathered during the course of the investigation. This can be a seemingly impossible situation and as such our business defence team are available 24 hours a day to provide representation to ensure you regain your liberty at the earliest opportunity and to put you in the best position to defend the matter should a court case follow.
Securing the return of assets – Even before any decision to prosecute is made the HMRC officers will routinely seize business documents, assets and equipment during the search for evidence of revenue offences. Applications will also be made to the court for the restraint of assets. This can jeopardise the survival of a business in circumstances where ultimately no revenue offences are actually found to have been committed. To avoid this situation our lawyers can make applications to the court to return property and vary or discharge restraint orders so the business can continue trading during this period.
Contesting a prosecution – A HMRC prosecution will invariably involve a lengthy court case over a number of hearings dealing with complex financial issues. The offences faced by a defendant will carry significant criminal sanctions if the matter is not successfully defended. We are able to provide the specialist commercial knowledge and experience in defending such cases to effectively prepare and present your case. This will involve forensically analysing all the evidence, anticipating and challenging the HMRC’s arguments through written documents and expert advocacy.
Contesting Proceeds of Crime Proceedings (POCA) – The legislation that governs the recovery of “proceeds of crime” is complicated and if not fully understood can produce disproportionate and unjust results. Due to the assumptions that the court can make under the POCA rules there have been cases where defendants have accepted minor breaches of tax legislation involving modest sums but ordered to pay many hundreds of thousands of pound to the HMRC as the proceeds of crime. If these proceeds of crime applications are not expertly challenged the orders to pay vast sums are perfectly lawful and will result in a substantial period of imprisonment if payment is defaulted.
Often a HMRC investigation starts by receiving a letter saying they are investigated suspicious activity or an irregularity in your accounts. For more serious matters, they can and do sometime carry out a raid on busines premises to ensure data is protected and not destroyed. However the investigation comes about, Josiah Hincks can assist.
For businesses, HMRC typically investigate suspected fraud in relation to VAT, PAYE, National Insurance and Corporation Tax. We’ll usually need to work with a tax advisor or your accountant to assist on the taxation side of things.
Individuals can also be investigated and while we only act for businesses, this could mean you as a shareholder or director. Any investigation will primarily look at Income Tax and whether HMRC suspects under-declaration of profits or over-declaration of losses.
Tax Evasion Schemes
We have specialist knowledge and experience with all types of tax evasion schemes. If you have invested or employed such tax schemes, which later become under review from HMRC, you may be asked to make an upfront payment to HMRC. We can help advise you on your legal rights and deal with both HMRC and the tax vehicle provider or whoever “sold” you the tax scheme in the first place to try and minimise your loss and effect on your business.
The issue of tax evasion and tax avoidance has received much media attention and political comment in recent years. Promises to clamp down on revenue offences from the Government, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Crown Prosecution Service have been backed up with a the establishment of specialist HMRC taskforces to find and prosecute such cases. The result has been a dramatic increase in criminal prosecutions, however it has not been the large multi-national corporations that have been subjected to investigation and prosecution but individuals and organisations that due to their location, size and resources are perceived to be easier targets.
Commercial fraud, money laundering and bribery
The commercial activities of businesses are being placed under ever intense scruntiny following the consolidation of existing laws and the creation of new ones to deal with commercial fraud, money laundering and bribery.
Whether dealt with be the Serious Fraud Offence or local economic crime units these cases can be an intimidating prospect for those under investigation. The investigation will usually start with the business premises being subjected to a “raid” where business records and equipment is seized whilst directors, managers and employees are arrested and questioned. What follows is usually a prolonged period over many months whilst the commercial activities of the business are investigated and the prospect of a criminal prosecution hangs over those released on bail.
If the company and/or individuals are prosecuted the case will go through a number of preliminary hearings before ultimately be tried at the Crown Court. During the trial itself the commercial activities of a business and the actions of those in charge will be scrutinised by the prosecution as they attempt to prove that a crime has been committed.
Our business crime solicitors understand the strain that criminal proceedings can place upon defendants. We ensure a proactive and strategic approach to defending allegations of “business crime” utilising the expertise of our own lawyers along with that foresenic accountants, industry experts and specialist counsel.
The introduction of the Fraud Act 2006 simplified the law relating to fraud, establishing a number of new offences which made it easier for prosecutors to bring case against companies and individuals. However, there have been many instances where lack of commercial experience on the part of the investigating officers has resulted in legitimate business practices being prosecuted as dishonest or otherwise unlawful. This is where we can bring not only our legal knowledge but our commercial knowledge to challenge the assumptions made by the prosecution.
In simple terms money laundering involves converting criminal proceeds so they appear of legitimate. However the rules and regulations introduced by the Money Laundering 2007 Act are anything but simple. The fact that the directors or employees of a business did not realise they were being used in laundering criminal proceeds will not necessary mean that they will not be found to be criminally liable. Compliance with money laundering obligations can be complicated and the consequences of breach extremely grave making professional advice and representation essential.
The Bribery Act 2010 introduced new laws aimed at stamping out corruption in commercial activities. The two main offences involve “making a bribe” and “taking a bribe”. In the event that person associated with a business was involved in an act of bribery without the knowledge of the directors the company may still be criminal liable if anti-corruption procedures were not implemented or followed.
In addition to expert representation in defending business crime prosecution we also deal with associated proceedings of Restraint Orders, Confiscation Orders and Director Disqualifications.