This is part twenty of our serialisation of an IR35 enquiry. To access the previous parts please visit our IR35 Chronicles Index.
It took two months for Vernon Pool to finally provide a full response to Dee Fender's complaint about his colleague, Mr Turpin, albeit that he did extend her the courtesy of sending her a letter within 30 days of receiving the complaint explaining that he would not be able to deal with the matter straight away and therefore required a little more time to investigate her grievances.
During the interim period, Neil Down had e-mailed his advisor to inform her that although Graham Hargreaves was still keen to offer his support to Neil he was somewhat nervous about the prospect of holding a face-to-face meeting with the notorious Turpin and would therefore prefer to provide information by way of correspondence.
In his reply to Mrs Fender, Mr Pool expressed his regret that the IR35 expert felt she had to resort to lodging a complaint against his esteemed colleague and whilst he understood her frustrations (did he really??), Pool took up a whole page extolling the virtues of his experienced Status Inspector and how Turpin could be relied upon to act impartially and reach a decision only after satisfying himself that he had availed himself of all the relevant facts.
Vernon Pool admonished Fender for having the audacity to question Mr Turpin's competence and further rejected her suggestion that Turpin should be removed from the enquiry and reminded her that if she remained dissatisfied she could always request an internal review of any final decision. He also pointed out that, although tax and NIC assessments had been raised, this did not preclude her client from submitting any further evidence that would influence the decision.
After the screed of prevaricating, Mr Pool conceded, in a very round about fashion, that Mr Turpin should have allowed the opportunity for Graham Hargreaves to provide further and more extensive evidence and that it could not be dismissed as easily as Turpin had attempted to ignore it.
He did however temper his remarks by sharing the same concerns about the reliability of the evidence that Turpin had conveyed to him. Despite this he advised that he had asked Mr Turpin to write to Mrs Fender explaining what further information would be required of Graham Hargreaves and hoped that this would satisfy her complaint.
Finally, he acknowledged the appeal against the Regulation 80 and Section 8 assessments for the years 2005/06 – 2009/10 and understood that Turpin had already issued formal notifications accepting the appeals and arranged for all the tax and NIC to be temporarily stood over so that BSOD Ltd would not be hounded with demands from HMRC Accounts Office.
Mrs Fender relayed the good news to her client via e-mail and stated that she would contact him again as soon as she had received Turpin's next communication.
Several days later, Dee Fender received a letter from Turpin who, through what would have been gritted teeth had the words been verbalised, offered a thickly veiled apology for originally rejecting Graham Hargreaves as a competent witness. He did, however, balance his remarks by stating that he still remained to be convinced as to whether any further evidence was viable. Nevertheless Turpin was prepared to remain open-minded and as such invited Mrs Fender to suggest the nature and format of such evidence.
ProtectTax's IR35 expert contacted Mr Turpin and held a short, awkward and frosty telephone conversation in which she explained the reason why Graham Hargreaves was reluctant to meet with the Status Inspector. Turpin sounded surprised as to why anyone should be hesitant to meet with him as he was disillusioned enough to believe he had a decent bedside manner. He would however respect the wishes of the third party to give evidence by correspondence and would set about preparing a set of questions for Mr Hargreaves to answer.
After her conversation had finished Dee Fender brought Neil Down up to date and asked him to tell Graham Hargreaves to expect a letter from HMRC imminently and as soon as it arrived to contract her immediately.
Next week: More questions than answers?