Right - the sky has fallen, Hell itself is bubbling up through the pavement and you've been selected for an enquiry from HMRC. No you're not likely to look back on this episode as "the hilarious time when..." but it's probably not as bad as it seems. In fact, you might not have anything to worry about at all.

The first thing to understand is that the taxman may not even have a specific problem to ask you about. He probably won't tell you why he's looking into your taxes, but the truth is some checks are completely random. That's the thing about Self Assessment - you can't always expect everyone to play fair if you never check up on them. Sometimes, it's just your turn.

Even if you weren't picked out of a hat, there might not be a serious problem. Maybe HMRC just need you to clarify something for them, or show them a few documents. If you've suddenly found yourself landed with a lot of money, they might be wondering about it. There's a bunch of reasons why they might be asking questions, but it doesn't need to be the nightmare it appears.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you've claimed a tax refund through RIFT, it's completely safe. Even if the worst comes to the worst, we'll make sure you keep the rebate you're entitled to.

Back to the enquiry itself. A basic survival guide to HMRC enquiries would go something like this:

Don't panic! Hopefully you've got this covered already. It's probably not as bad as you're imagining, and stressing out about it won't help anyway. Don't ignore it! Along with actively lying to the taxman, ignoring his enquiries is a sure-fire way of turning a minor problem apocalyptic. Seriously, don't do this. Get organised! Keep everything HMRC sends you to do with your enquiry safe. If it's all digital, back it up. If it's on paper, photocopy it and keep it where you can always find it. Get help! Our best advice, as always, is to contact us. There's no reason you have to go through this alone, and we're always ready to fight your corner.

Let's assume for a minute that things actually are getting serious. Maybe HMRC thinks there's a major error in your tax return. Worse still, perhaps they suspect it wasn't an accident. Trust us - no good will come from trying to cover up an honest mistake or attempting to cheat the system. When the taxman starts asking questions, the only thing to do is co-operate completely. Best-case scenario, the mistake gets corrected and they're on their way. Worst-case: you at least limit the damage done.

You're not completely at the taxman's mercy, of course. You've got some rights and protections to keep you safe from unfair tactics. Definitely get professional advice about this, and remember RIFT's only a phone call away.

At the end of the day, honest mistakes (whether yours or the taxman's) aren't usually too difficult to handle. As long as you play by the rules you ought to come out the other side of your enquiry safely. You might have some adjustments to your tax calculations to deal with, but that needn't be a big deal. HMRC won't ever deliberately try to cheat you - but they definitely expect the same fairness from you.

When it comes to tax refunds, RIFT knows all about protecting your money. To date, we've claimed back close to £4 million from HMRC for our clients, and every penny's covered by the RIFT Guarantee. In every case, the refund has ended up being fully upheld, and the money stayed safely in our client's pocket. If the taxman ever did demand the refund back, the RIFT Guarantee means we'd pay it ourselves at no cost to you!

HMRC enquiries aren't the end of the world. Play by the rules, get the right advice and protection, and you're completely covered. Phone or email to hear more about how RIFT Refunds keeps you in the taxman's good books.

Get in touch any help you need with self assessment tax returns or tax refunds by calling 01233 62864, we're here to help.