HMRC can require access to an accountant’s working papers, other than auditor’s papers and communications giving or obtaining tax advice (unless they are documents containing linking information, when limited access is permitted).

The working papers are the documents prepared by the accountant in the course of preparing the taxpayer’s accounts or tax return. Linking documents are the papers that show how the figures in the tax return have been derived from the taxpayer’s books and records.

HMRC have undertaken that they will not ask to see an accountant’s working papers, including linking documents, as a matter of course. They will normally be requested only when it is not possible to see how the figures in the records are linked to figures in the accounts. This permits HMRC to see only how a figure was arrived at, not why.

The protections given by statute continue to apply so that the power to request the accountant’s working papers is still subject to the restrictions applying to:-

  • personal records
  • journalistic material
  • legally privileged documents
  • documents relating to a pending appeal

 

HMRC’s Compliance Accountants will assist the officer if the accountant refuses to co-operate or disputes the papers that the officer can see. They will also be consulted in the case where it appears to the officer that the working papers contain deliberate errors and the case will be referred to Criminal Investigations if fraud is suspected.

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