COP9 changes

Posted on 10 May 2013
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Taxpayers under investigation by HMRC for suspected tax fraud will lose the option to cooperate with the investigation while denying the fraud from the end of this month report Harris & Co accountants Northampton #accountantsnorthampton

In essence, with effect from 1 July 2014, any taxpayer receiving a letter from HMRC informing them that they are subject to CoP 9 will be faced with the option of either going down the contractual disclosure facility ( or CDF) route or being barred from offering any cooperation.

The ‘denial route’ is currently one of three options available to taxpayers using HMRC"s contractual disclosure facility (CDF) in response to an investigation under Code of Practice 9 (CoP 9) (12-page / 390KB PDF).

Whilst the ‘denial route’ did not afford a taxpayer immunity from prosecution, it did enable a taxpayer an opportunity to engage with HMRC – and, in many cases, to reach resolution short of an admission of fraud. Anyone in a regulated profession and, increasingly, anyone looking to borrow significant sums of money for example, can be seriously impacted by having made an admission of fraud - which is what the CDF amounts to. Any taxpayer receiving a CoP 9 letter should now take urgent legal advice.

Once a taxpayer receives a CoP 9 letter with an offer to use the CDF, that person has 60 days to reflect on whether or not their tax returns are correct. During this period, HMRC will not communicate further with the taxpayer or their adviser. At the end of the 60-day period, the taxpayer has traditionally had three options: using the CDF, denial or non-cooperation. If the taxpayer does not respond within that period, or responds but refuses or fails to cooperate, HMRC retains the option to prosecute the taxpayer for any tax fraud that has not been disclosed.

Using the CDF allows a taxpayer to admit to fraud and agree to cooperate with HMRC. In return, the taxpayer secures immunity from prosecution in respect of any fraud disclosed. A penalty will be chargeable in addition to the tax and interest due. The taxpayer can alternatively deny the fraud and refuse to cooperate; however, this significantly raises the risk of a full-blown criminal investigation or significantly higher penalties as a result of civil action.

This change will lead to considerable uncertainty, an absolute lack of any control of – or potentially even lack of any engagement with – HMRC"s investigation, the inevitability of significantly higher penalties and a much greater likelihood of criminal prosecution.

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