HMRC Tax Investigation Services

If you are looking for assistance with responding to a tax fraud investigation, HMRC criminal or fraud investigation or a tax inquiry, the expert team at JMW is here to help.

Our specialists have years of experience dealing with every type of tax investigation and are able to provide a swift, nationwide response, resolving the situation efficiently and effectively. We are keenly aware of the need to protect you or your client’s reputation and privacy, and strive to do so at all times.

Let us reduce the stress and financial implications of a tax investigation. For free initial advice and consideration of documents, call our team on 0345 872 6666 or send us your details using our online enquiry form.

Our Services

No matter where in the UK you are and regardless of who is under investigation, be it you or a client of yours, we can help. Just some of our specialist services in this area include:

  • Specialist advice and assistance
  • Immediate response to dawn raids, arrests and interviews under caution
  • Conducting a comprehensive and carefully managed disclosure to HMRC to help avoid criminal investigations
  • Defence of tax fraud prosecution
  • Converting tax fraud prosecutions to civil proceedings, where possible
  • Challenging restraint orders
  • Challenging confiscation proceedings
  • Assistance with Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO)

Defining HMRC Tax Investigations

HMRC criminal investigations, HMRC fraud investigations and tax fraud investigations relate to a criminal investigation by HMRC into tax evasion, VAT fraud and tax fraud.

A tax inquiry is non-criminal and is an investigation that can be dealt with on a civil basis, avoiding criminal sanctions. However, if the level of fraud or suspected fraud involved meets certain conditions, HMRC will escalate their investigation from a civil case into a criminal investigation.

These conditions include cases where HMRC decides it needs to send a strong deterrent message, or where the conduct involved is such that only a criminal sanction is appropriate.

If found guilty of a criminal investigation, then the convicted parties will face steep financial penalties and, in some circumstances, time in prison. See the FAQs below for the penalties involved in civil cases.


  1. What records might HMRC ask for?

    The type of records HMRC might ask for will depend on what exactly it is investigating, but any of the following or more could be required:

    • Bank statements
    • Payroll records
    • Credit card statements
    • Sales invoices
    • Expense receipts
    • VAT records
    • Quotes from third parties
    • Copies of emails and correspondence
  2. How far back can HMRC investigate?

    If only minor adjustments to your tax return are necessary, HMRC may not investigate previous returns. However, if larger adjustments are required then tax returns from earlier years are likely to be looked at.

    Generally, if the investigation was triggered by a careless error, then a maximum of six previous years can be looked at in the settlement. However, if the error is deemed to be deliberate, then HMRC has the power to go back 20 years.

  3. What are HMRC tax investigation penalties?

    If at the end of a HMRC investigation you are found to owe additional tax then you will be liable for a penalty. The severity of this will take into account the reason for the error.

    The reasons that affect the penalty generally fall into the following categories:

    • Mistake or misinterpretation
    • Failure to take reasonable care
    • Deliberate understatement
    • Deliberate understatement and concealment

    If it is clear that you have made a genuine mistake with your return, then the penalty will be less severe than if you have deliberately falsified the return.

    For the occasions where a mistake has been paid, it is like that you will simply be asked to pay the remaining tax within 30 days of the decision. Interest may also be added.

    A deliberate mistake will lead to a higher penalty. This could be anywhere between 15-100% on top of your payment, but it could go up to 300%.

    In even more serious situations, a criminal prosecution might be brought. Under this circumstance, it is advisable to contact a specialist solicitor for help and advice.

  4. What business taxes does HMRC investigate?

    HMRC does not limit itself to investigating only income tax - there are many different types of business taxes that can be investigated. These can include:

    • Corporation tax
    • VAT
    • Insurance premium tax
    • Climate change levy
    • Landfill tax
    • Capital gains tax
    • Construction industry scheme
  5. How long do HMRC tax investigations take?

    Unfortunately, there is no time limit on how long HMRC has to complete a tax investigation. It could be weeks, months or up to a year for more complex cases. The length of time will depend on the size and gravity of each individual case, the nature and extent of HMRC’s concerns, your conduct and several other factors.

  6. What if HMRC turns up at my premises with a search warrant?

    HMRC has powers to enter premises to search and seize property. However, it is important to instruct a legal representative with the relevant experience because HMRC can sometimes exceed their powers and challenging the exercise of the powers can often be crucial in defending your legal rights. See our guidance on HMRC dawn raids for advice on how you can protect your position.

  7. If requested to attend an interview, do I need to attend?

    Nowadays, HMRC often invite persons under investigation to attend a "voluntary interview" rather than rely on the powers of arrest. This means that although you do not have to attend, a refusal risks arrest. The decision to attend an interview can be a matter of expert judgement, and careful preparation for voluntary interviews can make a very important difference to the outcome of the case. We can guide you through the pre-interview process, the interview itself and any resulting action required to protect your position.

  8. What happens if I am prosecuted?

    The first port of call should be to instruct a solicitor with appropriate experience to advise on what you can do in your particular circumstances to challenge the prosecution case, properly exercise your legal rights and mitigate the indirect commercial or personal impact of prosecution. This can include financial advice, reputational management, corporate restructuring and other services from associated departments within JMW. Different funding options are available and we can organise a no-obligation discussion to set out your options.

  9. What triggers a HMRC investigation?

    A HMRC investigation is usually triggered when figures submitted on a return appear to be wrong or unusual in someway. For example, if a small company suddenly makes a large claim for VAT, or a business with a large turnover declares a very small amount of tax.

    However, there are other incidents that could lead to a business coming under investigation. These include, but are not limited to:

    • HMRC receiving a tip-off
    • Working in an industry that is high risk, for example, one that regularly takes cash payments
    • Having a large increase in costs or drop in income
    • Significant inconsistencies between different returns
    • Repeatedly filing your tax returns late
    • Costs that are larger than the industry norm
    • Tax returns appearing to be inconsistent with your standard of living
    • Being in a sector that HMRC has decided to target
  10. What do I do if I receive a production order?

    In most circumstances, you will need to comply with a production order. However, they can sometimes be challenged, so it is important to instruct a solicitor experienced in this field to ensure that the request for information is relevant and not beyond the scope of the particular enquiry/investigation.

  11. What You Need to Know: Unexplained Wealth Orders

    Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO) came into force in January 2018 to help authorities identify and seize property suspected to have been bought by laundered criminal funds, most commonly from foreign sources.

    Find out more here in our UWO factsheet about what is entailed in a UWO and what could happen if you were to become subject to one.

Why Choose JMW?

Our team has the expertise and resources necessary to reduce considerably the financial implications and stress of a tax investigation, along with the significant amount of paperwork that comes with it.

Our specialist solicitors are available on a dedicated 24/7 helpline to ensure we can react as quickly as possible to minimise the implications of a tax investigation on you and your business.

What’s more, we have an extensive network of independent tax consultants, forensic tax accountants and specialist tax barristers with whom we work closely and are able to call upon when necessary.

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For specialist advice and assistance, call our 24/7 tax investigation helpline on 0345 872 6666 or let us know what you need help with via our online contact form.

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