How long have you been a tax adviser Bill?

Since July 2006 after 41 years on the bad side (HM Revenue and Customs – Previously Inland Revenue)

Why did you move into tax work?

It was in 1965 because my first choice of the diplomatic service was not considered suitable for this school leaver.
41 years later after having set up the COP9 teams in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland I decided to “retire early”. Since then I have enjoyed almost every day of my retirement providing my expertise in assisting clients to deal with HMRC. This is especially under Code of Practice 9 (but in fact any tax investigation where there is a mutual willingness to engage with a client on a full disclosure basis)

How did you come to specialise in Investigations work?

For the first 10 years or so of my career I progressed “through the ranks” to Tax Inspector and then on to Fully Trained Tax Inspector with District Charge.

I always enjoyed doing tax investigation work and catching people out. Then spending almost 9 years in HMRC’s Enquiry Branch undertaking specialist and serious tax investigations (with a view to prosecuting or settling civilly with errant taxpayers) I found the work even more interesting and I was good at it.

For another 20+ years in the job I was in charge of various tax offices and enjoyed working with and seeing staff develop.

Having retired early I was almost immediately asked to help an accountant who HMRC had their sights on and managed to satisfy them that their risk was ill-conceived. The rest is history as they say. Eventually I may retire but still find that my expertise is needed and appreciated by clients when it wins the day; so we will see when that day come.

What are the most common mistakes you see in your area of tax?

  1. HMRC do not always get it right but they do in a fair percentage of cases. So don’t think that you will be smarter than the investigator or deny irregularities if you know you’ve done wrong and want to settle in the most beneficial way possible.
  2. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to properly examine and defend a client. When the COP9 letter hits your doorstep – to be signed for – you only have 60 days in which to get your ducks lined up to best effect. Failing to meet that deadline or not properly accepting or rejecting HMRC’s offer can leave you exposed to losing immunity from prosecution for matters (however serious) that you have disclosed to HMRC.
  3. Lay your cards (however serious or misguided they may be) on the table with your COP9 specialist at the earliest possible. Keeping things back can lead to a suspicion that there is more being hidden and cause the trust/relationship to deteriorate or terminate.

What do you like most about the work you do?

Apart from the great satisfaction felt when you get the client a good result. Well it has to be forensically analysing business records and financial accounts to prove that the client’s full and frank disclosure is justified and that matters are not any more serious than disclosed.

What is your top tax tip for general practitioner accountants?

General practitioners should realise that I wouldn’t probably be able to do their job as well as they do it – I don’t want to prepare accounts and do tax returns.

In the same way they can do their clients the biggest favour by recognising that it needs a certain type of person and experience to do COP9 work and they should refer such cases for specialist attention. Additionally as I have no intention of doing their type of job their bread and butter is safe in their hands.

If you hadn’t gone into tax what would you like to be doing now?

A covert hotel inspector or failing that an agricultural farmer.

What has been the most rewarding thing you have done from a tax perspective?

Achieved the right result for a client who said that comparing my service to a Big 4 Accounting firm – and he had experience of such – would be a disservice to Bill….

Which aspect of tax would you nominate for a silliest tax rule award?

HMRC’s view that it only costs £4 per week (surprisingly £6 because of Covid19) for the additional costs of working from home.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Do it all again.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time – away form the world of tax?

In season – Creel fishing inshore and when able driving my tractor.
You can reach Bill via his profile here>>>