Surviving an IRD audit

The IRD is monitoring tradies closely.

Construction’s a hotbed of activity in what’s dubbed the ‘Hidden Economy’. There has been a high level of non-compliance seen by smaller operators in the sector not declaring part (or in some cases) all the cash payments they receive.

That’s why IRD’s interested in tradies’ affairs.

Behind the scenes, they’re running detailed analytics over large volumes of third party data to find cases to investigate. As cash is likely to be spent at some point, they’re comparing taxpayers’ spending habits (think living expenses, mortgage re-payments and other purchases) with their income tax returns to identify any outliers. If tradies can’t explain where the money to pay for those things came from, IRD’s suspicions may be aroused.

Being caught has serious repercussions

Any additional tax obligations that arise from undeclared income carries IRD interest (currently 8.22 percent) and shortfall penalties. The latter range from anywhere between 20 to 150 percent of the tax shortfall, depending on the seriousness of the breach. Criminal prosecution may also follow.

If you’re keeping good records and have a good compliance history, you should have nothing to fear if IRD comes a-knockin’. Any dealings with them should be quick and painless.

However, below are a few pointers to help you out if you find yourself on their radar.

Know your rights

IRD investigators are entitled to visit your business without warning. Should they show up, ask to see their identification and grab their business card.

Refrain from answering any questions. Take their contact details and arrange a time to meet with them along with your accountant.

Don’t let them take original documents as these can get lost or misplaced. Insist they make copies if they require any information.

Don’t go it alone

IRD audits are a specialist area and tax law is complex, so engage the services of someone who has expertise in both. Sure, they’ll charge fees, but it’ll be worth every cent given the considerable time, stress and money you’ll save.

Respond to IRD swiftly

Deliver any information IRD wants by the deadlines it imposes. If you require more time, let them know as soon as possible and negotiate a new date to supply what they’re after. Doing this shows you take your tax compliance seriously.

Fess up

Make a voluntary disclosure if you haven't been entirely honest. Doing so has some advantages.

Firstly, it can reduce any shortfall penalty. This can be by 40 percent, 75 percent or even 100 percent, depending on what stage of the investigation you make the disclosure.

Secondly, you can reduce the chances of criminal prosecution.

Use tax pooling

If you receive a notice of reassessment from the taxman, an IRD-approved tax pooling provider can reduce the interest cost by up to 30 percent on any additional tax payable. Savings are considerable.

You also receive an extra 60 days from the date the notice of reassessment was issued to pay.

by Lee Stace