I’ve received a COP9 letter – What should I do?
What is COP9?
Code of Practice 9 or COP9 is a document that is rolled out by HMRC as part of its Contractual Disclosure Facility.
HMRC will only issue a letter under COP9 where it believes there has been serious tax fraud / evasion.
A COP9 will only ever be issued by HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service (“FIS”).
The COP9 sets out HMRC’s enquiry process in such matters (ie where it believes there has been serious tax fraud / evasion).
I’ve received a COP9 letter – what should I do?
Below is our list of do’s and don’ts for those that have received a COP9 letter with their morning newspaper…
|1. Don’t panic||Don’t panic, don’t bury your head in the sand and don’t book a one way ticket to Equador!
Provided one deals with a COP9 calmly and properly from the outset the process can be a manageable one.
This is regardless of whether one has failed with one’s tax affairs (as suspected by HMRC) or HMRC’s information has led them to be holding the wrong end of the stick.
|2. Do something about it||As stated above, the case should be dealt with properly from the outset.
Our view is that you are better served by appointing an adviser at the outset who has the expertise and experience to deal with the matter expediently.
Key decisions such as whether to accept or deny HMRC’s version of events and making any disclosure to HMRC need to be undertaken within 60 days.
|3. Do get specialist advice||Code of Practice 9 makes it clear that HMRC believe you should appoint an adviser to deal with these serious allegations. Of course, we agree (of course, we would!)|
|4.Do get specialist advice with COP9 experience||This really goes without saying.
However, you should also consider whether you can work positively with the adviser and you should also feel that the adviser will fearlessly promote your interests.
|5. Do make sure your adviser can talk you through the process||The allegations are serious ones but your adviser should be able to talk you through the process and reassure you there is light at the end of the tunnel. You should be able to sleep at night.
I’ve received a COP9 letter – summary
As you will be aware from our other articles on this website, Code of Practice 9 is only rolled out where HMRC believes that a taxpayer has engaged in serious tax fraud.
Clearly, this means that HMRC, whether rightly or wrongly, believe that it is a serious matter.
It is therefore important that, on receipt of a COP9 letter, a taxpayer should instruct an experienced tax specialist to deal with the case.
For further information regarding COP9 please visit our COP9 Signpost article here.
If you or your client have received a COP9 letter from HMRC, or have any queries about COP9 at all, then please do get in touch.