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Resolving a dispute with HMRC

Disputes with HMRC can often become protracted, either because HMRC continues to request more information, or simply because an agreement cannot be reached. If you’re in the middle of a longstanding dispute with HMRC and seek resolution, here are some options available to you.

Get specialist tax investigation help today: +44 (0)20 7710 3389

Obtaining a closure notice

Obtaining a closure notice

If HMRC have been provided with all the information that is reasonably required to establish your tax position, they should issue a closure notice. A closure notice will confirm HMRC consider the case to be closed and, assuming they consider additional liabilities to have arisen in that year, will contain an assessment of those liabilities.

If HMRC has not issued a closure notice, because you’re unable to resolve a particular issue, it’s possible to request one from HMRC. This will allow you to raise an appeal and have your case reviewed by an independent officer, or have the case heard by a tribunal. 

HMRC may claim they do not hold sufficient information to raise assessments, and therefore cannot issue a closure notice. If you believe this isn’t true, an application can be made to the tribunal for them to order HMRC to issue a closure notice. In order for the tribunal to make such an order, you must prove to them: that the information HMRC is requesting is not reasonably required to establish your position, is not in your possession or power to possess, or that the information HMRC already holds is sufficient for them to raise assessments and additional information would be of no further benefit to HMRC.

Appealing the closure notice

Appealing the closure notice

If a closure notice is issued by HMRC you will be able to appeal and request an independent review (or even make an appeal directly to the tribunal). Such a review will still be performed by an officer at HMRC, but they should be from another team and have had no involvement with the case to date. We have seen cases where the independent officer has been someone in the same team as the case officer, or even sitting alongside them. If you're in any doubt as to whether the reviewing officer is independent, this should be addressed at the earliest opportunity.

When you request a review, it’s possible to make further representations to the reviewing officer. At this stage, we suggest you consult a tax investigation specialist, who will be able to suggest different arguments, or a different approach, which could help settle your case.

If the reviewing officer confirms the case officer’s view, the next step is to appeal to the tribunal. Taking a case to tribunal can be very expensive and, in our view, should be avoided if at all possible. One way of doing this is to use mediation.

Mediation

Mediation

Mediation is far less formal and costly than a tribunal. It allows parties to meet face to face and air their grievances before an independent HMRC facilitator, with a view to reaching a settlement.

According to HMRC’s figures, mediations have an 88% success rate. At Buzzacott, we’ve managed to reach an agreement in 100% of the cases we have taken to mediation due to the appointment of our own CEDR (The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) accredited mediator. 

Even if mediation is not successful, it’ll still allow you and your adviser to narrow down the issues at dispute, allowing you to make a more informed decision as to the arguments that will be raised, and the likelihood of success, should the case proceed to tribunal.

For more information about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mediation, and how we can help you settle your dispute with HMRC utilising our CEDR accredited mediator, please click the button below.

Mediation - Alternative Dispute Resolution

Tribunal

Tribunal

Tribunals put far more pressure on the taxpayer than mediation, with greater requirements placed on the submission and presentation of evidence, and strict deadlines that must be met.

While it’s possible to represent yourself at these hearings, HMRC uses dedicated personnel, and any taxpayer without representation will be severely disadvantaged. We recommend seeking specialist advice to: review your case prior to entering into proceedings, keep in mind the deadlines for any appeal, and to then represent you should you decide to proceed.

Judicial review

Judicial review

Judicial review is only available where a government body, such as HMRC, makes a decision that is not open to appeal, such as the issue of an accelerated payment notices (APN) or ‘follower notice’. Judicial review is a complex and expensive process, and we would recommend obtaining representation from a legal adviser or solicitor that specialises in tax matters before taking any action. We work with leading legal specialists who are best placed to offer advice on any potential action.

How we can help

How we can help

We have extensive experience in assisting clients in dispute with HMRC, be it complex fraud investigations  or more simple compliance checks with regards to potential errors in returns or undisclosed income. 

Where required, our in-house CEDR accredited mediator, Barbara Bento, can help clients find a resolution through ADR mediation.  We can guide you through the ADR process and act as your representative and agent, ensuring you have minimum contact with HMRC and safeguarding your best interests.

Awarded Best Tax Disputes/Investigations Team

Buzzacott’s Tax Investigations and Dispute Resolution team has been honoured as the ‘Best Tax Disputes/Investigations Team’ at the prestigious Tolley’s Taxation Awards 2019. These awards recognise the finest achievements and talents of remarkable individuals and teams across the entire tax profession.

Request a callback or meeting

If you'd like us to give you a call, fill in your details below and we'll email to arrange a good time to speak to our Head of Tax investigations team, Mark Taylor. All communications are in the strictest confidence.

If you'd prefer to speak to our team directly, please call +44 (0)20 7710 3389.

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