VATman visits – should I be concerned?
We all know that strange feeling we get when you’re driving and you spot a police car behind you. Even though you’ve done nothing wrong, there’s always an underlying feeling of guilt and that you might have done something wrong. That’s exactly the same feeling that law-abiding business owners across the country feel whenever they are visited by HMRC.
Being notified that HMRC are on their way can be daunting, but you shouldn’t worry. It is very common for businesses to have HMRC visit them about their VAT. In the vast majority of cases, they will simply look at your records and be on their way.
Legally speaking, HMRC doesn’t have to give you any notice that they are visiting for VAT purposes. However, they do typically give you at least 7 days’ notice. If this isn’t convenient for you, it is possible to request a different time or date for the visit. HMRC isn’t required to accept your request, but they often will if it is for legitimate business or personal reasons.
Although it is easier said than done, staying calm is very important in the context of VAT visits. If you’ve done everything by the books and you have a reliable accountant, you have no reason to worry at all.
The officers that visit you presume no guilt before they step through your doors. They’re just there to make sure that you’re doing the right thing as opposed to trying to catch you out.
It is important to note that the majority of VAT visits are carried out on a random basis. However, businesses in different sectors will experience a different number of VAT visits over the years. Here are some of the reasons why you might be subject to a VAT visit:
- You trade in a sector that is well-known for VAT fraud,
- Somebody has informed HMRC that they should visit your business,
- The amount of VAT that you have paid is unlike other businesses in the same sector with a similar turnover,
- You have made a VAT repayment claim when you don’t normally make one,
- Your regular VAT repayment claim is higher than usual,
- You have missed several VAT payments in the past,
- They want to verify who your suppliers and customers are.
As you can see, there are more reasons than just fraud that HMRC might visit your business for.
If your business meets one or more of the criteria listed above, you will likely be subject to more VAT visits than other companies. There is no quota for how many times you should be visited in a given year however – until they write to you, you won’t know.
One-person businesses and microbusinesses are much less likely to be visited by HMRC because, if they are committing fraud, the sums are on a much smaller scale. Naturally, the lack of a potential big reward at the end shifts these businesses further down the priorities list.
All they’ll do is ask for all of your VAT records as well as any other general business records to be made available to them. They will want to see your invoices, cloud bookkeeping records, and your till rolls, among other documentation.
At the end of their visit, HMRC will, share their findings with you. They’ll let you know if they have found anything that requires further investigation or anything that they have concerns about. In most cases, this won’t be applicable.
In the event that they do find something wrong, they may issue you with a penalty. However, it is extremely uncommon that this will happen on their first visit.
After their meeting, you can breathe a sigh of relief and go back to business as usual.
If you’re looking for a reliable accountant that will help you make sure that all of your VAT records are kept up-to-date, contact Panthera Accountants. We help business owners across the country keep their businesses compliant with HMRC.
For more information about the other ways that we can help your business, call us on 01235 768 561 or drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’ll be back in touch with you shortly.