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The problem with HMRC clearances

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Many large corporates seek to discuss major issues up front with HMRC, in return receiving statutory clearance or informal understanding. This provides certainty for all sides and early warning of any difference of opinion. That ‘certainty’ has faded, with HMRC rescinding informal understandings on factual matters such as price or purpose. Some statutory clearances have been reopened on account of ‘misrepresentation’ and, in one case, even an allegation of taxpayer fraud. Apparent certainty from an old clearance can become a messy, litigious dispute. Fixing this requires a new framework recognising that clearance is really an accelerated enquiry. Taxpayers should seek to future-proof their clearances so as to prevent the certainty seemingly provided by clearances subsequently turning out to be merely a mirage.
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