The aim of Code of Practice 8 is to provide guidance to HMRC staff on how to conduct investigations into complex tax avoidance schemes. The code sets out the principles that must be followed during an investigation, including the need to gather all relevant information and evidence, consider all possible explanations and alternatives, and use the least intrusive means possible to achieve the desired outcome.
One of the key features of COP 8 is that it places a strong emphasis on transparency and communication. HMRC is required to provide the taxpayer with a clear explanation of the reasons for the investigation, the scope of the investigation, and the potential outcomes. This includes explaining the possible tax liabilities that may arise as a result of the investigation and giving the taxpayer the opportunity to provide their own evidence and explanation.
The code also requires HMRC to consider the impact of the investigation on the taxpayer. This includes taking into account the taxpayer’s financial position, their ability to pay any potential tax liabilities, and the impact that the investigation may have on their business or personal life.
Another important feature of COP 8 is that it allows HMRC to make a decision on the tax liability of the taxpayer before any legal proceedings are commenced. This is known as a ‘Contractual Disclosure Facility’ (CDF), and it provides the taxpayer with the opportunity to disclose any tax irregularities and settle the tax owed without facing the risk of prosecution.
In order to be eligible for the CDF, the taxpayer must provide full disclosure of all irregularities and cooperate fully with HMRC throughout the investigation. If the taxpayer does not disclose all relevant information, or if they do not cooperate fully with HMRC, then they may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.
COP 8 is an important tool in the fight against tax avoidance and evasion in the United Kingdom. By providing clear guidelines on how investigations should be conducted, it ensures that taxpayers are treated fairly and with respect, while also allowing HMRC to take decisive action against those who seek to evade their tax obligations.
COP 8 investigations can be a daunting experience, and it is essential that individuals and companies seek professional advice if they receive a COP 8 letter. It is important to remember that participating in the CDF process can be beneficial, as it can result in a reduced penalty and may avoid the need for a criminal investigation.
Code of Practice 8 is a vital part of the UK tax system, designed to ensure that investigations into tax avoidance are conducted in a fair, consistent and transparent manner. By following the principles set out in the code, HMRC is able to investigate suspected cases of tax avoidance while respecting the rights of taxpayers and providing them with the opportunity to respond to allegations. The use of the CDF also provides a mechanism for taxpayers to settle their tax affairs and avoid the risk of criminal investigation and prosecution.