Does HMRC tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
July 27, 2022
Tax Tribunals

Does HMRC tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth?In a recent tax case (Islam 2022 TC 08513), the tribunal judge did not agree.

In fact there is a whole section devoted to the discussion of the said meeting notes! And I have quoted directly from the tribunal decision.

Para [36]- “This was not a satisfactory case and these issues are at the heart of that. HMRC argue that what they call the handwritten notes are a true and accurate reflection of what was discussed at the July meeting and they accurately reflect the fact that the meeting lasted 45 minutes. We cannot agree”.

The notes followed the format that caseworkers are taught, but lacked substance and even the taxpayer’s responses!

Para [39] - “We say that because, for example, the Brief records HMRCʼs prior assumption that the rental for the flat above the business was £562 per month but it does not include Mr Islamʼs refutation where he points out that it was only £500”.

Para [41]- “In regard to the rental of £475 per month for the other flat it does not record Mr Islam saying that it varied, depending on the tenant or, indeed, Officer Bagley saying ‘absolutely’ in response!”

It was ‘blindingly obvious’ in the tribunal judge’s words that the notes were not a true reflection of what happened and were written up afterwards.

In this case, the tribunal judge said in para [37] - We will refer to them as the ‘Brief’ because they are headed up ‘Interview brief’. We are a specialist Tribunal and know from experience that a well prepared HMRC officer visiting a taxpayer will have prepared a brief in advance. It is precisely that; an aide memoire.

The issue I have with HMRC’s meeting notes (apart from the above issues highlighted!) is that HMRC officers tend to put their own words or expressions forward, which can put a different interpretation.For example, taxpayers will not say ‘I deliberately destroyed the records’ this is not a statement that lends easily to any lay person, but it is for HMRC because it demonstrates behaviours for penalties.

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