The Taxman has wide powers to inspect your business, but he is supposed to give you at least seven days notice to check on your business property, computer or business records. He is permitted to turn up without warning, but only if tax is immediately at risk, such as where fraud is suspected.
In spite of these strict rules, tax inspectors do try to examine business records without a prior appointment, or where an appointment has been arranged, the officers may turn up hours early before the tax adviser has arrived. If the Taxman pitches up at your workplace and demands access to your business records, know your rights:
- Ask to see the inspectors’ ID, which they must carry and check this ID is genuine by telephoning the HMRC office they claim to be from
- You don’t have to let the tax officers into your building, and their rules say they must not gain entry by force
- You and your staff are not obliged to answer the tax officers’ questions
- You are required to provide access at any reasonable time to any computer you use for your business, and help the tax officer extract the computer records, but that’s where your responsibility ends
- The tax officers are not supposed to rummage around in your stuff. They can examine materials and records brought to them but they do not have search powers.