Anger at on the spot tax checks
SMALL business owners have been upset by an "unprofessional" on-the-spot swoop by the taxman.
Some in Nailsworth have been angered by the way Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has implemented a drive to recover more tax revenue.
One said an HMRC inspector read aloud what her business's turnover was, in front of a shopful of customers while another said his staff felt uncomfortable at the grilling they were subjected to.
"It was quite aggressive," she said. "They asked to see my books but I don't keep them in the shop. Then they asked what my average takings were, in front of customers."
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A staff member showed the inspector a figure, she said.
"Then he proceeded to read it out aloud. That is wholly unprofessional, especially in a small town. Obviously I don't mind showing HMRC my books and anything else they want, and I understand why it's done."
She did not want to be named because, like another trader, she feared the consequences.
The other trader said: "I wasn't here and my staff were asked questions they simply didn't know the answers to. They found it very uncomfortable, not because they had something to hide but because they really didn't know the answers."
HMRC confirmed it has powers to look at books and records, but if asked to leave would make an appointment for seven days later.
Lisa Billard of HMRC said: "We are carrying out checks on grocery and retail businesses in Nailsworth, and the wider South West, to ensure tax obligations are being met and correct taxes paid.
"These visits may take place when premises are open and customers being served, but we always aim to carry out these checks in a courteous and professional manner.
"HMRC has statutory powers to examine books and records. When our officers visit they present the business with a 'letter of authority' from a senior HMRC officer.
"This letter states that if it is not convenient with the business for the check to be made at that time, we will leave if asked to do so. We would then ask to make an appointment with the business at a mutually-agreed time, usually in seven days or sooner if convenient with the trader.
"We would always investigate any complaints about the way these checks are conducted."