Taxpayers have the right to appeal HMRC’s decisions to the Tax Tribunal in most circumstances. In reality, many find the appeal process too arduous, time consuming and risky; resulting in taxpayers conceding or settling matters with otherwise good prospects of success. We expect that the recommendations of the Tax Law Review Committee, if implemented, will improve taxpayers’ access to justice and level the playing field between taxpayers and HMRC.
The Tax Tribunals no doubt play an invaluable role for individual and corporate taxpayers alike. The relative accessibility and informality of the Tax Tribunals combined with the Judges’ extensive experiences as Tax practitioners provides a unique recourse for taxpayers otherwise struggling to reach a principled settlement position with HMRC.
Many of the Tax Law Review Committee’s findings in its recent report “The tax tribunals: the next 10 years” resonated with our experiences of pursuing appeals through the Tax Tribunals.
We read the Committee’s recommendations with great interest and in particular, support the recommendations to reduce delay in listing complex cases and would welcome an increase to the Tax Tribunals’ sitting days.
Tax cases often involve novel and complex issues. With delay, there is real risk of evidential decay and potential witness attrition which is harmful to taxpayers on whom the burden of proof rests.
Guidance provided by the Tax Tribunals as to statutory interpretation rarely affects solely the parties involved; there is a wider public interest in ensuring that tax appeals are listed and decisions are released promptly.
The Committee’s recommendations to increase the effectiveness of case management by the Tax Tribunals would serve to protect both the interests of taxpayers and HMRC and alleviate reluctance of pursuing an appeal.