HMRC will start targeting businesses across the country later this month as it rolls out a new "fresh approach" to Business Records Checks (BRC) visits.
As of 26 November HMRC will start visiting small and medium-sized businesses in London and East Anglia to check their records.
The visits take place over a 14-week period, ending up in South Wales and the South West in February 2013.
HMRC will be sending out letters to businesses that it believes may be at risk of keeping inadequate records, advising them that it will be in touch by phone. The call will take businesses through a set of questions designed to assess their record keeping affairs.
Depending on the outcome, HMRC will then decide whether they would benefit from "tailored educational support" and whether a visit is necessary.
If businesses are keeping inadequate records they will receive guidance on what to do. HMRC will then set up another visit after three months to check that the necessary improvements have been made.
Businesses that then fail to comply will be liable to a penalty.
HMRC director of local compliance, Richard Summersgill, said: "The visits offer benefits for businesses at risk of keeping inadequate records.
"Adequate records help businesses pay the right amount of tax at the right time, thereby avoiding interest and penalties for errors and late payment, whilst also giving HMRC greater assurance when a business submits its tax returns."
The BRC programme will be rolled-out, region-by-region, over the following 14-week period;
- London & East Anglia - 26 November 2012
- South East England - 14 January 2013
- Scotland - 14 January 2013
- Northern Ireland - 14 January 2013
- Central England - 21 January 2013
- East of England - 28 January 2013
- North Wales & the North West of England - 28 January 2013
- South Wales & the South West of England - 4 February 2013
Changes were made to earlier versions of Business Records Checks, originally piloted in April 2011 and February this year, to ensure better targeting of checks and improved links to available education and support.
HMRC visited 3,431 small businesses throughout the pilot and found that while 36% had issues with their record keeping, 10% had serious enough issues to warrant a follow-up visit.
The CIOT reacted to the revamp, but was apprehensive about the new regime, warning that small firms are most likely to be targeted and affected.
Patrick Stevens, president of the CIOT, said: "Since the selection process for BRCs is based on risk assessment it is more likely that cash businesses will be chosen for BRCs. Such businesses in particular will need to ensure they are keeping adequate records going forward."