The taxman is suspending enquiries into taxpayers and businesses under investigation as a result of capacity limits in the department.
HM Revenue and Customs has written to consumers and companies involved in enquiries explaining that during the lockdown it will not request information or press for responses and some enquiries will be suspended completely due to coronavirus constraints.
A government spokesperson said: “It is right HMRC does everything possible to protect individuals, businesses and the economy during this extremely difficult time. This includes prioritising work to support businesses and individuals.
“HMRC will always take tough action against fraudsters who attempt to deprive the UK of the public funds the government needs to support the nation at this difficult time.”
The taxman has been tasked with setting up and running the government’s coronavirus furlough schemes, and last week HMRC’s chief executive Jim Harra said it was using every resource available to get the scheme up and running as quickly as possible so businesses and self-employed workers receive their payments in a timely manner.
Although a pause in investigations could seem like relief for taxpayers and businesses under investigation, tax and advisory firm Blick Rothenberg has warned those affected not to be lulled into a “false sense of security”.
Fiona Fernie, tax dispute resolution partner at the firm, said: “For individual taxpayers and businesses whose activities are currently curtailed, it would be sensible for them to use the time they have now to deal with HMRC rather than store up problems for the future.
“After all, if tax is due, it is still going to be due when we come out of this. Putting off HMRC’s queries until after this difficult period is over may not be as good an idea as it sounds.”
Meanwhile Robert Salter, a director at Blick Rothenberg, urged businesses using the government’s furlough scheme to be thorough when claiming for payments for their employees.
He said it was “vital” for legitimate businesses to ensure they correctly document and evidence any claims if they wish to avoid any future audit challenges from HMRC.
The taxman’s top boss Mr Harra publicly admitted last week the scheme had significant fraud risks and that HMRC was hoping the public used it in good faith.
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