Any investigations that are instigated under Code of Practice 9 will result in a criminal accusation, and must be taken extremely seriously. If an individual or business is suspected of criminal fraud they will receive a letter and offer of a Code of Practice 9 contract from HMRC, which must be replied to within sixty days with one of two responses.
The recipient can sign the enclosed contract and accept that deliberate and wilful acts of misconduct have resulted in a loss of tax payments, or this contract can be rejected. If this is the course of action settled upon, HMRC will launch a full, forensic investigation that could either be a civil matter or cause for criminal investigation. If HMRC do not receive a response within the sixty-day time limit that they impose, they will assume that the individual or business has rejected the contract and begin the necessary proceedings.
If you receive a Code of Practice 9 letter and contract, it is absolutely imperative that you seek professional advice immediately – the consequences could be extremely dire if you fail to do so. Experienced tax accountants will be able to provide advice on how best to proceed, and an investigation can be an extremely long and intrusive process. Bringing in outside assistance will shield you from much of this trouble.
Professional help is also very important if you decide to accept HMRC’s offer, as complete and transparent compliance will be expected and required. Any kind of error or misinformation, regardless of whether it was intentional, will be considered to be an attempt at blocking the process and failing to cooperate. If an individual or business does agree to cooperate with HMRC on a Code of Practice 9 investigation, this will be reflected in the penalisation that is imposed upon them, which will be designed to recoup the tax funds lost and provide a financial penalty. The investigation will also largely be conducted as a civil proceeding, as opposed to criminal procedure.