We investigate the effects of tidally induced asymmetric disc structure on accretion on to the white dwarf in intermediate polars. Using numerical simulation, we show that it is possible for tidally induced spiral waves to propagate sufficiently far into the disc of an intermediate polar that accretion on to the central white dwarf could be modulated as a result. We suggest that accretion from the resulting asymmetric inner disc may contribute to the observed X-ray and optical periodicities in the light curves of these systems. In contrast to the stream-fed accretion model for these periodicities, the tidal picture predicts that modulation can exist even for systems with weaker magnetic fields where the magnetospheric radius is smaller than the radius of periastron of the mass transfer stream. We also predict that additional periodic components should exist in the emission from low-mass-ratio intermediate polars displaying superhumps.