Q: My business struggled in the past with meeting tax obligations, and has been selected for an audit covering 2011 and 2012. Having gone through the accounts for these years, I’m pretty confident that there are no problems. However, I’m concerned about a claim made for the 2010 tax year – new guidance issued by Revenue on allowable expenses and subsistence makes me worry that there would be an issue with it. The amount isn’t huge – I could afford to pay any tax bill arising from it – but I’m now somewhat worried that it could result in a significant fine or more problems. Should I disclose it, and what would the likely attitude be.
A: Yes. It might sound glib to say, but paying your taxes is the right thing to do – and, if you leave this to lie, it will be a constant source of stress.
There are very few arguments to support not disclosing the matter. If I were to play Devil’s Advocate, I’d say that Revenue are unlikely to look back into your 2010 accounts if 2011 and 2012 prove squeaky clean. But you’d be taking a major chance – and the longer it lies, the worse it will look.
If Revenue you make this as an unprompted disclosure, then you may be surprised at how flexible they can be. As you explain it, this appears to be a genuine mistake arising from your misinterpretation of the law in lieu of Revenue guidance – I can’t speak without knowing all the details, but I would be optimistic about your chances of a settlement to pay any outstanding amount with some interest rather than a fine.
If you have been are preparing for this audit and disclosure yourself until now, I’d highly recommend getting professional advice. At DCA, we often go through a client’s books and help clear up issues like this. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like an initial, no-obligation meeting to discuss your options.