What’s the protocol when HMRC officers visit business premises? 

There are two types of visits HMRC officers can make to your business premises: arranged visits and unannounced visits. In the course of an HMRC visit, you should anticipate officers requesting company records. Unless the visit is unannounced, they will inform you of the specific accounts they wish to examine before the visit.


What happens when HMRC want to visit my business?

The prospect of HMRC officers visiting your business can be intimidating, but you can inquire about the purpose of their visit and its expected duration. It’s advisable to request this information in writing, allowing you to make preparations and minimise disruption on the day.

If you’re curious about the reason for the visit, it could be a routine tax inspection or a random check on business records to ensure compliance with regulations.

Most HMRC visits are scheduled in advance, typically with seven days’ notice, giving you ample time to prepare and reduce potential issues.


Arranged visits from HMRC

An HMRC officer may contact you by phone to schedule a visit. It’s advisable to ask for written confirmation of the following details: 

  • Date and time of the visit, along with the expected duration
  • Name of the HMRC visiting officer
  • The reason for your selection
  • The specific records they will need to inspect

They may either take the records with them or examine them at your premises if deemed ‘reasonably required’ for their investigation. While the officer is not authorised to search your premises for documents or files, they should still be escorted around your workplace.


Day of the visit

Once you have confirmation of the records they wish to inspect, you can prepare them in advance, ensuring no additional documents are included or visible. It’s wise to inform your staff about the upcoming visit, so they can ensure nothing potentially harmful to your position with HMRC is left unattended.

While the inspector may try to engage with your staff on an ‘informal’ basis, be cautious as these conversations could impact the inspection’s outcome. It’s crucial to document what is said during the inspection, note the decisions made, and make sure to obtain these decisions in writing.


When visits are unannounced

In some cases, HMRC officers may arrive at your premises without prior notice. This typically occurs if they suspect an attempt to fraudulently cover up or if access to business premises has been denied on multiple occasions.

Occasionally, an oversight may lead to a failure to notify you of the visit, making it a routine inspection. If you prefer, you can request them to return on another day to ensure your accountant is present, and your records are prepared.

If HMRC officers arrive with a written notice signed by a Tribunal or Authorised Officer, you should ask for identification. However, you are not obligated to grant them entry as they do not possess an automatic right of entry; the formal notice is merely a request to enter.

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Penalties for obstructing an HMRC officer

Failing to comply with an HMRC notice or deliberately obstructing an officer during their visit could result in a financial penalty of £300. Actions such as destroying or deliberately concealing requested records or information by HMRC may lead to additional penalties of £60 per day. If errors are discovered in documents, fines of up to £3,000 can be imposed.

Vanguard Insolvency can assist you in handling your interactions with HMRC. With extensive experience in HMRC inspections, we offer the professional guidance you require during this concerning period. Contact one of our expert team members to arrange a same-day consultation at no cost.

David Jackson MD
Senior Partner at Vanguard Insolvency Practitioners | Website

I am an insolvency professional with a distinguished career specialising in commercial insolvency, adeptly navigating Creditors Voluntary Liquidation, Company Voluntary Arrangements, and Company Administrations. With a comprehensive understanding of insolvency laws and an unwavering commitment to ethical practices.