Warning to keep HMRC guidance copy as defence
Anyone relying on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) guidance published online are advised to keep printouts or screengrabs to protect them in case they are subject to an investigation
The warning has been issued following complaints that information migrated from HMRC and other government department websites to the new gov.uk website has been simplified and abridged – often with incomplete or misleading advice.
Anyone who has looked something up on gov.uk and then acted on the information, or decided they don’t need to do anything based on what they have read, are recommended to have proof of the guidance they relied on in the event of a dispute with HMRC.
While HMRC will amend guidance as soon as it is aware it is incorrect, this is of no use to someone who has relied on any incorrect information given, especially if they are unaware that this guidance has subsequently been amended.
Therefore to prove beyond doubt what the guidelines said at the time it was relied on, taking screenshots or printing-out the guidance and date-stamping them is important for evidential purposes.
In two legal cases, judges have stated that if the tax authority has made a clear and unambiguous statement on a matter, then any person acting on that information should be able to rely on it.
Our advice to every taxpayer is simple, before making any decision or relying on HMRC guidance, speak to a qualified accountant.