HMRC investigations: code of practice 9

16 February 2023 | Applicable law: England and Wales

Not all tax fraud in the UK results in a criminal investigation and prosecution.  HMRC still have discretion to offer taxpayers whom they suspect have been involved in deliberate fraud an opportunity to make a full disclosure in return for a promise that the matter will be conducted under this code of practice (known as COP9). At the present time, COP9 is the only facility open to a taxpayer in which HMRC will, in certain circumstances, offer a written guarantee of no criminal investigation.  A few thousand specially trained officers within the FIS Directorate work the individual cases.  ‘FIS’ (pronounced ‘FIZ’)has nothing to do with champagne but stands for Fraud Investigation Service.

Most COP9 cases are started initiated by HMRC but a taxpayer who wishes to come forward and make a voluntary disclosure is usually received with a welcome. If handled correctly, the procedure is the same and the financial penalties are usually lower than where HMRC starts the investigation.  The modern practice is for HMRC to offer a contract to the taxpayer to participate in its Contractual Disclosure Facility (CDF) whereby in return for a full disclosure of all deliberate tax fraud, continuing cooperation throughout the enquiry and payment of tax interest and penalties, the enquiry will result in a civil settlement I.e. monetary payment.  The taxpayer does not undergo court proceedings and no criminal record can result. Depending on the circumstances, no publicity will result – something very important to prominent and high net worth individuals.

How we can help

Withers’ highly ranked tax investigation team has had extensive experience in COP9 investigations over many years and has advised clients in relation to those investigations as well as Criminal Investigations appertaining to both direct and indirect tax investigations.

We support and guide the taxpayer through what could otherwise be a stressful investigation with minimum disruption to their lives. We will work with your existing accountants or recommend specialist accountancy firms to ensure that the correct amount of tax is calculated and your tax affairs are brought up to date and  regularised as expeditiously as possible.

Our experience in this area includes

  • Acting for a number of FCA regulated individuals
  • Acting for individuals in the sports and entertainment industry.
  • Advising professional intermediaries
  • Advising legal, accountancy and other professionals in relation to their regulatory as well as tax obligations
  • Numerous high net worth or famous individuals who have used the process to avoid a criminal investigation.
  • Working closely with our media and reputation management team

For more information please contact any of the team members below, or your usual Withers contact.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


Related experience

As a full-service law firm, we are able to provide advice and information about a wide range of other issues. Here are some related areas.

Join the club

We have lots more news and information that you'll find informative and useful. Let us know what you're interested in and we'll keep you up to date on the issues that matter to you.