How long does a tax investigation take?

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Exactly how long a tax investigation will take depends on the scope of HMRC’s investigation and the volume of paperwork involved. It could only take a few months or could extend longer than a year, or sometimes even longer (if involving large businesses or complex structures). HMRC could delay your tax investigation further by asking you for additional information.

In 2012, the average time it took HMRC to carry out a local compliance investigation was 2.5 months, which increased to 3 months in 2015. Although not a straight comparison, more recent press reports in January 2018 indicated that the average length of an investigation into larger businesses has increased dramatically to a staggering 34 months.

However, depending on the nature of the case, there are various ways that an experienced tax lawyer can reduce the amount of time a tax investigation needs to take.

After an investigation has been concluded, the subject has 30 days to file an appeal if they wish to do so, which would extend the whole process further. If the investigation concludes with the requirement to pay HMRC the money owed to them, you will be told how long you have to make the payment.

It is impossible to predict how long a tax investigation will take, but there are ways to minimise the length of the process and, by extension, minimise the impact on your day to day life. Cooperating with HMRC where possible, e.g. promptly producing any documents they ask to see, will speed up the investigation.

Investigations can be prolonged by the discovery of something new, such as hidden information, or if HMRC changes its mind about the reason for the underpayment of tax and demands tax records from further back (up to 20 years, in some cases). If the investigation broadens from a single aspect of your tax payment to multiple aspects, it will also take a lot longer.

No one wants an investigation to take longer than it has to, especially you. Working with a specialist tax lawyer is one of the best ways to ensure that you do everything in your power to minimise both the scope of any investigation and the length of time that it will take.

A specialised solicitor will be able to advise you on how to respond to HMRC requests, including whether the scope of any requests can be challenged, or if it’s possible to challenge any decisions and, importantly, whether or not there’s any value in making an appeal at the end of the process. It’s their our job to ensure that stress from the investigation is kept to a minimum and that it reaches a favourable conclusion as soon as possible, whether that’s through mitigation or appeals.

Richard Nelson LLP employs experienced and dedicated investigation lawyers, who have worked on a number of high profile cases. Get in touch with us today for a free and confidential initial telephone consultation with no strings attached.

Jonathan Wright

Written by Jonathan Wright

Jonathan Wright joined Richard Nelson LLP in 2006, having previously spent nearly ten years defending complex business crime and fraud cases. He became a partner in 2009. Jonathan's success as a criminal defence solicitor and tax investigation specialist has led to many accolades from the Legal 500.

Read more about Jonathan Wright.

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