In an international operation, HMRC has recently raided two Premier League football clubs – Newcastle United and West Ham United and launched an investigation into income tax and national insurance fraud at both clubs.

A spokesperson for HMRC said it had ‘arrested several men working in the professional football industry’ and that ‘180 HMRC officers were deployed across the UK and France... HMRC investigators searched a number of premises in the North East and South East of England, arrested several men and also seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones.”

It is every business’ worst nightmare. An unexpected visit from the authorities (it could be HMRC, FCA, SFO, CMA ….a number of other organisations) will inevitably cause significant business disruption and could be the start of protracted investigations, legal proceedings and the imposition of large penalties/fines.

But would your business know what to do if the inspector (or 180 of them) calls?

Key points to bear in mind:

  1. Do your receptionists know what to do if the inspectors call? Alert your core team immediately including your IT director
  2. Obtain the inspectors’ identification and the document authorising them to carry out an inspection. Understanding the scope of the search/investigation is key to protecting the business’ position
  3. Inform staff of the raid and that document destruction should be stopped until further notice
  4. Be alive to the legitimate bases on which you can object to the seizure of documents/materials e.g. relevance/legal privilege but be careful not to obstruct the inspectors which could amount to a criminal offence and/or increased penalties
  5. Ensure copies of any documents/materials seized are retained and points of objection to production noted
  6. Have a strategy ready to deal with queries after the raid is over.