Code of Practice 8 Investigation

HMRC Suspects Tax Evasion

COP8 Investigations start when HMRC have a tip-off and suspicion of tax avoidance. It would be best if you talked to us before you reply to HMRC as it may have serious consequences

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There are several tax avoidance schemes that an individual can be held accountable for, relating to several different taxation sections. Share Loss Relief Schemes, Employee Benefit Trusts, Stamp Duty Schemes, Film Partnership Schemes, Pension Schemes, and Inheritance Tax Schemes all fall under the bracket of tax avoidance as well as subsections associated with the various schemes. HMRC’s anti-avoidance group will attempt to close any loopholes being used to exploit tax avoidance, dependent on which type of scheme is being used. There are many serious repercussions to any individual found using a tax avoidance scheme. Being found guilty of participating in a tax avoidance scheme can potentially lead to criminal prosecution and serving a prison sentence. With the complexities surrounding tax avoidance and the process of the Code of Practice 8 Investigation, let our professional tax accountant examine your returns or offer advice from the earliest opportunity.

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A Code of Practice 8 (COP 8) investigation is the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) process for formally investigating suspected serious tax fraud and evasion. Where HMRC has reasonable grounds to suspect a taxpayer may have engaged in deliberate and concealed cheating of the tax system, they can launch a criminal investigation under COP 8 to establish if an offence has been committed.

HMRC may investigate taxpayers for COP 8 if they suspect deliberate attempts to evade taxes. This includes significant unexplained wealth, offshore bank accounts, contrived tax avoidance schemes, poor accounting records, whistleblowers, and repeated non-compliance.

The COP 8 investigation process involves several stages, including initial suspicion, notification to the taxpayer, evidence gathering, interviews under caution, and a case review. If the evidence supports it, the FIS may recommend prosecution, leading to a trial and penalties if the taxpayer is found guilty. It’s important to note that the taxpayer is formally interviewed under caution during the interviews and should be aware that silence can be used against them. Sometimes, the taxpayer may settle by admitting to the fraud and repaying all taxes owed.

The duration of a COP 8 investigation can vary substantially depending on the offences and complexity involved. Some relatively simple cases may conclude in around a year. However, where multiple connected parties are under investigation, extensive documentation to gather and review, large sums offshore, and delays agreeing on prosecution or settlement, the process often takes several years from initial suspicion to the outcome. The timeframe also depends on current workload levels within HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service. Resource constraints have occasionally delayed the progression of some COP 8 cases.

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