Historically, when HMRC became aware of tax irregularities, their primary concern was to secure repayment of any monies due, together with the appropriate penalties and interest. In effect, they just wanted the money. As a consequence, criminal prosecutions were comparatively rare.
From the late 1990’s an epidemic of so-called Carousel Frauds gave raise to numerous high profile highly expensive prosecutions. The loss to HMRC ran into hundreds of millions of pounds of missing VAT; and the prosecutions were considered necessary in order to stamp out these frauds even though the prospect of recovering the missing revenue was very slim. However, prosecutions for more mundane tax issues remained rare.
Now the position has changed dramatically. HMRC have been given the mandate and the resources to increase the rate of prosecutions five fold and the intention is clear, “Eradicate tax evasion in all its forms across all sections of society”.
Although the first contact that some people suspected of tax irregularities have with HMRC is by way of a “Dawn Raid” – in essence a co-ordinated, early morning, attendance by several HMRC and police officers at business and residential premises connected to the suspect – it is far more likely that a suspect will receive a letter advising him that he is now the subject of a criminal investigation into his tax affairs and that he is required to attend an Interview Under Caution.
At this point you should seek specialist advice without delay.
Initial Telephone Discussion
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HMRC Interview Under Caution
An interview under caution is a key investigative tool for HMRC when seeking to build a case against a suspect. They may have various reasons to believe that an individual is Cheating the Revenue in some way but often the picture is both incomplete and open to interpretation in more than one way. The way in which a suspect answers questions in interview can dramatically assist the investigators, completing the jigsaw that enables them to charge a suspect and put him before the courts.
Investigators will often suggest that they simply wish to establish the truth about what has or hasn’t happened. WRONG. Their primary objective is to get the suspect to say things that either confirm HMRC’s suspicions or, crucially, contradict independent evidence already in the possession of HMRC. From an investigator’s perspective, a suspect whose answers contradict other evidence is lying about that issue and, therefore, in all probability, lying about every significant issue.
Avoiding these pitfalls in an interview under caution is absolutely critical and a principal reason why suspects should seek representation by experienced specialist lawyers at an interview under caution.
Knowing or believing you have done nothing wrong should not make you think, “Well, I don’t need a lawyer”. WRONG. You are up against trained investigator’s who are looking to trip you up. Get representation.
The caution itself is something that many are familiar with from films and TV. “You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned anything you rely on in court. What you do say can be given in evidence”.
It breaks down into three parts.
- You have right of silence.
- If you are prosecuted and you tell the court something designed to assist your defence when you didn’t mention during your interview under caution the court is entitled to wonder why you didn’t mention it at the time and may place less or no weight on what you are telling the court.
- The interview under caution is recorded and a transcript of the interview can be made available to the court in any prosecution.
You may be interviewed over several hours, during which time you will have little or no contact with the outside world.
Following your first interview under caution it is extremely unlikely that any immediate decision will be taken as to what is to happen to you. HMRC do not make the decision as to whether a suspect is charged and, if so, with what offence. That is the matter for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
It is highly likely that you will be told that the investigation will continue, a report will be sent to CPS and a decision shall be taken.
The CPS can decide to:-
- charge you with an offence or offences,
- take no further action on the matter,
- Direct that the investigators conduct gather further evidence , including a further interview under caution.
The tactics of whether and how you should answer questions can be extremely complex. That is why it is essential you tilt the playing field in your favour by engaging top quality representation.
Our team of highly experienced recognised experts in financial crime and tax are at your disposal.
For further information, advice or representation email email@example.com or phone us on 0808 168 5550.