The current COVID-19 crisis has forced the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales to a near standstill. Whilst social distancing measures have begun to ease, virtual trials and hearings continue to take place. Yet, there remains a significant backlog of criminal cases, with the Crown Prosecution Service only supporting urgent cases in the Magistrates’ courts.
Whilst the Crown Prosecution Service is the body responsible for deciding whether to press charges against a taxpayer, HMRC are responsible for investigating suspected tax fraud. However, there is no doubt that the HMRC are occupied with helping businesses and individuals remain solvent through the current crisis. It would seem inevitable therefore that the progress of any criminal investigations currently underway will be at least slowed.
There is no set time when HMRC criminal proceedings will progress, any individual or business under criminal investigation by HMRC should use this time to hone their defence to prepare for the future.
Whether HMRC will show any increased flexibility during the current crisis remains to be seen. If you would like further information on engaging with HMRC or preparing a defensive strategy against HMRC, please contact John Szepietowski at Audley Chaucer.