Unannounced tax inspections: procedures and consequences

The tax authorities have the right to carry out an inspection without notifying the company. This type of procedure is in first place after the right of inspection and seizure and the right of investigation provided for in the Book of Tax Procedures.

Limited investigations

Tax authorities may visit a company's premises without first informing the head of the business, particularly if they suspect fraudulent activity. This is known as an unannounced tax audit, a strictly controlled procedure which limits the rights of the auditors.

The unannounced tax audit involves the auditor making material observations:

  • physical inventory of real estate, furniture and human resources
  • consideration of the existence and condition of accounting documents without examining their content
  • inventory of cash on hand
  • price surveys based on price labels or display panels

If the company has computerized accounting systems, the tax officer can make a copy of the accounting file. More precisely, two copies are made: one is given to the company and the other retained by the tax authorities.

Consequently, in the context of an unannounced tax audit, the auditor cannot go beyond simple material observations. On the day of his visit, he must give the company a notice of accounting verification before beginning operations.

What are the consequences?

At the end of the inspection, the inspector completes a report specifying the names and positions of the inspectors who carried out the inspection, the places where the inspection was carried out, the digital imprint of the copies of the computerized files and the observations made.
This document, drawn up in duplicate, must be signed by the company. In the event of disagreement with the conclusions reached, the manager may refuse to sign the document, which will be recorded by the auditor. In all cases, it is important to ensure that all findings have been recorded in the minutes.

The unannounced tax audit is generally followed by an accounting audit, which involves a further visit by the tax officer to the company's premises.

A detailed examination of accounting documents will be carried out.

This time, the company director has a reasonable amount of time in which to organize himself and, if necessary, to call on the assistance of his counsel.

During the intervention, the administration will make sure that the copies of computer files previously made have not been modified.

On-site presence may not exceed 3 months for companies with annual sales of less than :

  • 818,000 euros (sales of goods, food or accommodation)
  • 247,000 euros (other services)
  • 365,000 euros (agricultural activities)

However, this period may be extended to 6 months if significant irregularities are found in the accounts.

Depending on the findings, the audited company is liable to penalties of varying severity.

To avoid this risk, the tax authorities have set up a dedicated tax support service for SMEs in 36 new départements.