Tax and accounting business concept

When Inland Revenue comes knocking at your door

It’s true IRD has more power than the police.

Unlike our justice system where you are innocent until proven guilty, IRD takes a position and it’s up to you to prove otherwise this can prove very expensive.

IRD audit activity is ramping up. It is monitoring tradies and those operating restaurants, bars, cafes and takeaways closely.

After all, it’s noticing a high level of non-compliance by some working in the construction and hospitality sectors. They include business owners who are not declaring part or in some cases all of the income they receive. Some are also not paying GST and PAYE.

Hence IRD’s interest in their business affairs.

As IRD continues with its investigations work in the ‘Hidden Economy’, we thought we would share some insights about how it is going about this. We also provide some tips on what to do if you find yourself caught up in an IRD audit.

How IRD is selecting its audit cases

Behind the scenes, IRD is running detailed analytics over large volumes of third party data it can access to find taxpayers to investigate.

For instance, they know people are likely to spend the income they conceal at some point. As such, they’re comparing their spending habits with their income tax returns to identify any outliers. If someone cannot explain where the money to pay for certain items came from, it may arouse IRD’s suspicions.

IRD can also compare the income someone has returned for GST against their electronic receipts. The difference should be cash sales. As a result, IRD may investigate anyone returning lower-than-normal cash transactions in comparison to their industry peers. In hospitality, no recorded cash sales will almost certainly ring alarm bells.

Another tell-tale sign that someone’s tax affairs may warrant a closer inspection are discrepancies between supplies bought and goods sold.

What are the consequences?

Not surprisingly, avoiding tax obligations is a serious offence. It carries serious repercussions.

Any additional tax obligations that arise from an IRD audit carries interest (currently 7 percent) and shortfall penalties. The latter are brutal. They range from anywhere between 20 to 150 percent of the tax shortfall, depending on the seriousness of the breach.

Criminal prosecution may also follow.

What to do during an IRD audit

If you keep up-to-date records and have a good compliance history, then don’t worry. Any dealings with IRD should be quick and painless if they come calling.

However, below are a few pointers to help you out if you find yourself on their radar.

1. Know your rights

IRD investigators have the right to visit your business without warning.

However, if they show up out of the blue, don’t panic. Ask to see their identification and grab their business card.

It is also wise to refrain from answering any of their questions at this stage. Take the investigator’s contact details and arrange a time to meet with them along with your accountant.

Do not let them take original documents with them as they may misplace or lose them. Insist they make copies if they require any information.

2. Don’t go it alone

An IRD audit can be tricky. It’s a specialist area and tax law is complex. Therefore, engaging the services of someone who has expertise in both is important.

While you will incur fees, this will save you considerable time, stress and money in the long run.

3. Respond to IRD swiftly

Deliver any information IRD wants by the deadlines it imposes. If you require more time, let them know and negotiate a new date to supply what they are after.

Whatever you do, don’t leave things until the last minute. Giving IRD what it wants promptly shows you take your tax compliance seriously.

4. Fess up

It is true what they say. The truth shall set you free. Given that, consider making a voluntary disclosure if you have been dodging your tax obligations.

There are several advantages to doing so.

Firstly, it can reduce any shortfall penalty incurred. Making a voluntary disclosure before the IRD audit starts is the best thing to do. It can reduce the shortfall penalty by 75%  or even 100 % in some cases. Disclosing any incorrect tax information during the investigation may reduce any penalty by 40 %.

Secondly, you can reduce the likelihood of criminal prosecution by coming clean.


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