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Accountancy  •  Bookkeeping  •  Business Services  •  Business Tax  •  HMRC  •  Personal tax

Return of the Books and Records Check

By RJP LLP on 21 November, 2012

HMRC has confirmed it plans to re-start the Business Record Checks programme originally launched last year from November 26th. This time, it says it’s going to be taking a "fresh approach" to visits, which are aimed at SME business owners based in London and the South East.

HMRC want to reintroduce the programme to help educate the taxpayer in maintaining adequate business records – although the more sceptical amongst us would say the main motivation is the collection of additional revenues in the form of penalties. The reason for reintroducing the checks is to recoup as much money as possible in underpaid taxes.

Unlike the previous scheme HMRC have said that they will first call those individuals/businesses selected to discuss their records with them.

If these discussions result in concerns over how good the business might be at record keeping, the business owner will either be offered some “tailored educational support” or notified of an impending visit by post. The CIOT (Chartered Institute of Taxation)has suggested that HMRC is most likely to be concerned about record keeping within predominantly cash based business like coffee shops, convenience stores, fast food outlets and the construction industry. These types of businesses should therefore be particularly careful about maintaining good standards of record keeping.

Businesses who are visited and found to be keeping inadequate records will receive guidance explaining what they need to improve and will be revisited after three months to check that the necessary improvements have been made. If after this, poor practices continue, a penalty charge for non-compliance will apply.

During its original pilot for the Business Record Checks initiative, HMRC visited 3,431 small businesses and reported that 36% needed to improve their record keeping in some way. A further 10% had issues that were serious enough to warrant a follow-up visit.

Over the next 14 weeks, HMRC will be visiting businesses in the following areas:

  • London & East Anglia – 26 November 2012
  • South East England – 14 January 2013
  • Scotland – 14 January 2013
  • Northern Ireland – 14 January 2013
  • Central England – 21 January 2013
  • East of England – 28 January 2013
  • North Wales & the North West of England – 28 January 2013
  • South Wales & the South West of England – 4 February 2013

When the BRC initiative was first announced we covered how business owners needed to approach the issue of record keeping in detail. If you think you might need to improve the way you maintain your accounts files, follow our guidance to ensure you don’t get on the wrong side of HMRC.

Key do’s and don’ts for good record keeping

  • Don’t throw away any receipts or back up paperwork.  Financial records and evidence of expenses need to be kept for 6 years.
  • Records need to be exact and not estimates of costs.  If you have to make an estimate, producing some back up evidence is advisable.
  • Invoices, bank statements, paying in books, cheque books/stubs, receipts for purchases, expenses forms all need to be filed and kept.
  • Ensure you and all your employees keep clear records showing whenever personal assets are used for business purposes, such as cars for example.
  • Don’t think you are too busy to focus on good administration and paperwork.  Make a point of staying up to date with record keeping.  This makes it easier to be accurate and will also indicate to HMRC that you understand the importance of keeping accurate accounts.
  • Speak to your accountant if you any queries and listen to any feedback they give you as its better to take some time out now to get things right than suffer the consequences (and costs) in the event of a visit or an HMRC enquiry.

To discuss whether you might have underpaid personal or corporation tax and what to do next, please contact Anne Eager by emailing


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