When running a business, you’re always making sure that you’re doing everything by the book to ensure you’re creating a safe and professional environment for your employees, and a trustworthy and reliable service to your customers. But when your business is falsely accused of tax evasion, that can all come crashing down. Here’s what you can do to protect your business and come out unscathed.
What happens if my business is accused of tax evasion?
Tax evasion is a serious crime and you could go to prison if you are found guilty. Prison sentences may last up to seven years or you might be ordered to pay a very large fine which could lead to bankruptcy. This is why it is important to act straight away. Follow these steps to take action:
Ensure your accusation isn’t a scam
Ill-intentioned criminals set up scams surrounding tax fraud in order to get you to pay them large sums of money. First and foremost, it’s important to make sure you are not the victim of a scam. Unfortunately, there are many fraudulent emails, text messages, and phone calls made in order to take advantage of your and steal your money. Gov.uk is a great resources which is filled with professional advice on how to detect ‘HMRC related phishing emails, suspicious phone calls and texts’.
Some of these tips include always staying wary and making sure you avoid clicking on any links within the email and providing as few personal details as possible during phone conversations. When talking on the phone, avoid saying ‘yes’ or agreeing to anything unless you are absolutely sure that the call isn’t a scam. If you’re unsure whether an email, phone call or text is legitimate, you can also call HRMC directly and ask them to check their records.
Getting immediate legal guidance and advice
Tax evasion doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guilty. Sometimes an accountant may have missed payments without your knowledge or another situation outside of your control occurred. No matter the reason, it’s very important to seek professional legal guidance and advice immediately, even before answering any letters by HMRC. ‘White collar’ lawyers are specialised and usually have a lot of experience helping business get through this phase.
Looking to see what might have gone wrong
Before jumping to conclusions, be sure to look carefully for errors in all tax returns and accounting. You may trust someone in the company to do this for you but looking over them yourself as well will increase your chances of identifying and rectifying the mistake quickly. Unfortunately, when a lot of money is involved, people who you think are trustworthy may turn against you and look to benefit themselves, so be very careful and approach the situation with healthy suspicion.
Keeping calm and level-headed
Despite the severity of the situation recognise that you can’t control everything and try to stay as calm as possible. People react to stress in different ways, so handle this the way that works best for you. Remember that there could be serious consequences, but when things are approached in a calm and collected way, it’s much easier to spot mistakes and come out of the other side having learnt and grown. If you know that you haven’t done anything wrong, odds are that everything will work out fine in the end, so stay objective and proceed step by step.
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