Criminal investigations by HMRC were once preserved for criminal gangs or those in a position of trust, such as accountants and solicitors, accused of serious financial wrongdoing.
The tough stance adopted by HMRC’s fraud investigation service has seen it move away from Civil Investigation of Fraud (CIF) procedures and launch criminal investigations into taxpayers who have undeclared income, attempt to hide money offshore or are involved in deemed tax evasion schemes. HMRC is not only targeting the architects and promotors of these schemes but also the professionals and high net worth individuals who have invested in them.
HMRC will begin a criminal investigation when it suspects the following:
- Deliberate filing of inaccurate tax returns and VAT returns
- Misuse of tax procedures
- VAT Missing Trader Intra-Community (MTIC) fraud
- VAT ‘Bogus’ registration repayment fraud
- Money laundering
- Deliberate concealment, forged or false documents, deception, or corruption is suspected
- Importation or exportation breaching prohibitions and restrictions
- Participation in a conspiracy with others to evade the payment of tax
- When HMRC has offered a person a Contractual Disclosure Facility (CDF) under Code of Practice 9 (COP9) but the person has either rejected the offer or has failed to follow the proper procedure
Our HMRC investigations and tax fraud lawyers have experience in advising directors and high net worth individuals who are facing criminal prosecution or investigation under the civil regime.
We act for individuals and professionals accused of non-payment of income tax and VAT as well as those involved with tax avoidance schemes such as film schemes, gift aid and EFURBS.
Our tax fraud investigations lawyers can also assist if you are under investigation for commercial tax fraud and money laundering.
We will work closely with other professionals including forensic accountants and those in the field of computer forensics and asset tracing to help resolve matters with HMRC through the civil regime, wherever possible, to achieve a commercially favourable outcome. However, if you are facing criminal prosecution, we will fight hard to defend your best interests every step of the way.
How we can help
Our tax investigations lawyers can help at every stage of the investigation from responding to initial enquires and requests for disclosure to attending interviews under caution, provide money laundering advice and defend those under criminal investigation. We have an outstanding track record of getting criminal proceedings ‘knocked out’ at investigation stage without our clients going to court.
Our expertise includes:
- Advised the defendant in an extremely high profile HMRC prosecution in a £130m-plus alleged tax evasion scheme. The High Court described it as the ‘largest criminal investigation of its kind’. We led a successful application to dismiss the case. Given the gravity of the admitted failings by the prosecution, costs were awarded by the Crown that exceeded £2m
- Advising the directors of large imports and logistics companies in respect of worldwide investigations into the alleged £50m evasion of ‘anti-dumping duties’ imposed by the EU on Chinese manufactured Solar panels. This is the first ‘anti-dumping’ criminal investigation conducted by HMRC
- Advising an ex-director of a multi-jurisdictional PLC in a large-scale HMRC investigation. More than 200 officers were deployed to raid various premises throughout the country. HMRC’s investigations are worldwide and focus on what is an alleged multi-million-pound MITC
- Advised a high-profile individual who faced proceedings around the world. HMRC investigated criminal allegations in connection with a £500 million discretionary trust. Alleged offences dated back to 1991! Successful representations led to the matter concluding with no charges being brought against our client
- Advising a director in a European-wide tax investigation into fraud and money laundering. Complex jurisdictional issues. A joint investigation team was formed by UK and Dutch investigators. Following representations, no criminal charges were brought against our client in the UK
- Operation Venison – advised a managing director in £130m alleged international fraud prosecuted by HMRC. Resulted in a successful three month abuse of process application leading to the end of proceedings. A number of HMRC personnel were subsequently placed under criminal investigation
- “Mercury” tax investigation – Retained by prominent businessman following execution of search warrants and dawn raids by HMRC. Attended at the scene, challenging officers action and agreeing a search protocol. Later involved in challenging the lawfulness of the search warrants and supporting judicial review proceedings brought by the scheme providers of the tax mitigation scheme
- Montpellier tax investigation – Following dawn raids by HMRC in the UK and Isle of Man, we were instructed by a director to deal with interviews under caution and representations into allegations regarding a gift aid scheme. The case went to trial where it eventually collapsed when the Crown offered no evidence, resulting in not guilty verdicts