Criminal Fraud Investigations
Criminal Fraud Investigations are dealt with by Police and Crown prosecution Services. We can be an aid to your legal team for defence. Call us to discuss your situation.
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Criminal Fraud Investigations are incredibly serious. A professional tax accountant should be contacted if there is any notation that your business is being investigated for fraud. Run by the HMRC subdivision, the Fraud Investigations Service Unit (FIS), criminal fraud investigations are very different to their civil counterparts. However, in some cases, a criminal fraud investigation can be formed on the back of a civil fraud investigation. Normally, most fraud investigations start using the Code of Practice 9 policy, but HMRC will move to prosecute where the circumstances are more severe criminally. In these instances, the penalties can be higher and more appropriate to the crimes HMRC believe have been committed. A trained forensic accountant can deal directly with HMRC for you in most cases, although you remain liable for the conclusions made. Please contact us to see how our professional tax specialists can help you.
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There is a fine line between acceptable avoidance and illegal evasion. Typically tax avoidance involves legal measures to minimise tax within the rules – albeit aggressively at times. Criminal tax evasion involves deliberately understating income, falsifying records, concealing assets or other deceit to dishonestly reduce tax owed. It requires fraudulent intent. HMRC must prove this intent for successful criminal prosecution.
Building a robust defence requires early engagement with specialist criminal tax lawyers and accountants to review the allegations made and start collating documentary evidence to refute HMRC’s suspicions or provide innocent explanations where possible. Detailed financial analysis and advisory support will be needed throughout the investigative process. Any interviews under caution should be carefully handled on legal advice to avoid self-incrimination.
At lower levels of evaded tax, sentences tend to involve heavy fines, community service, suspended sentences or a mix. Custodial sentences apply more for persistent, high value evaders – up to 7 years for the most serious cases like offshore tax evasion over £1 million. Failed avoidance scheme users are treated more leniently if fully cooperating with settlement. Sentencing follows strict guidelines on the type of offences and sums involved.
Accountants can fulfil vital roles liaising with legal counsel by analysing the financial data related to charges to identify potential grounds to challenge HMRC’s interpretation and calculations. Thorough forensic accounting review of alleged figures versus records can reveal flaws or exaggerations in HMRC’s assessment of lost tax, undermining the prosecution case. Expert testimony on accounting treatments may also help argue legitimate mitigating factors
Whether to settle out of court or defend through to trial depends on individual circumstances and legal advice. Settlement can bring more lenient treatment but still involves admitting guilt on record – so reputational and career impacts remain. Robust defences can succeed against weaker cases but involve more cost, stress and reputation risk if convicted by a jury at trial. Your legal team should guide the decision around the relative strength of evidence.
Yes, being acquitted at criminal trial does not prevent HMRC subsequently pursuing civil tax assessments and penalties through normal enquiry powers. The criminal burden of proof of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is higher than the civil test of ‘balance of probabilities’, meaning you can still be liable civilly for tax inaccuracies that were not proven criminally. However, this is not automatic – HMRC will weigh up if civil action is warranted given the criminal verdict.
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