TaxPersonal TaxOpening enquiry: Information Powers: Resistance to opening meetings [348]

Opening enquiry: Information Powers: Resistance to opening meetings [348]

You may find that with some agents there is stronger resistance to meetings under SA. They may argue that since you have not given grounds for dissatisfaction with the return they cannot recommend that their clients attend a meeting. Where you adopt the approach of examining the records before seeing the taxpayer it may lessen the likelihood of this sort of resistance. You can indicate any areas of concern with the records that you particularly wish to discuss at the meeting and this may make the agent more willing to recommend attendance. You should, however, avoid giving the impression of having jumped to conclusions before you have had the opportunity of hearing what the taxpayer has to say.

If despite this you continue to meet resistance, you must remember that SA does not give you a power to insist on a meeting. If the taxpayer refuses to attend, you will have to continue your enquiries by correspondence as far as possible and your only opportunity to question the taxpayer may occur at the hearing of any appeal against an amendment to the self assessment or any assessments for earlier years you may eventually make.

If you do meet resistance to a meeting you should

  • explain why you think a meeting is the best way of proceeding
  • explain as clearly as possible what it is you wish to discuss
  • suggest, where appropriate, that the cost to the taxpayer may be minimised by progressing the enquiry through a face-to-face meeting.

In some cases it may be worth pointing out that if your further enquiries lead to culpable omissions being established, then any added difficulty or delay caused by the taxpayer’s refusal to answer reasonable questions could affect the mitigation of penalties. This would have to be sensitively handled and you would have to make it clear that you were not making unjustified allegations at this stage. You should also bear in mind that in some cases the taxpayer may be able to answer all questions through correspondence, without the necessity for a meeting.

You should ask the accountant to confirm that he has conveyed your views about the desirability of a meeting to the taxpayer.

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