Tax Tribunal Appeals Lawyers
Contesting decisions by HMRC to assess you to a tax or penalty or to disallow the application of a relief or tax credit may put you in a position where you need a Court to decide who is right in law: either you or HMRC.
For most types of decision that HMRC can make about a tax payers affairs there is a corresponding right of appeal to an independent specialist Tribunal. In the first instance this comes in the form of the First Tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber).
Olliers Solicitors are specialist tax disputes lawyers. This means that we are experts at navigating litigation with HMRC. Our lawyers are experienced advocates used to conducting trials in the Tax Tribunals, County Court and High Court. Contact Olliers Solicitors for a full discussion of your position.
Is my case going to the Tax Tribunal?
Not necessarily. Lawyers who are looking out for your best interests will always try to come to the earliest and best settlement at the least possible cost to you.
At Olliers Solicitors we are experts in Tax Litigation. In order to arrive at the best possible settlement you need to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. This means that you ought to approach settlement discussions with HMRC on the footing that you are prepared to litigate the matter in front of a Tax Tribunal Judge. It is only possible to reach your best possible settlement outcome if HMRC can see the full merit and justification in your position.
Contact Olliers Solicitors to discuss how it may be possible to come to a swift settlement position with HMRC in relation to your Tax Dispute.
Our team of expert Tax Counsel provide our clients with advice in relation to:
- conducting both “open” and “without prejudice” discussions with HMRC
- appealing against any tax assessment levied by HMRC;
- appealing against any tax penalty levied by HMRC;
- navigating the HMRC internal review process; and
- advising on statutory tax appeals within the Tax Tribunal.
Is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) available?
Both informal and formal ADR procedures are available throughout the whole tax dispute process.
Olliers Solicitors have significant experience of both informal and formal ADR procedures in tax, insolvency and commercial disputes. ADR should always be considered as a speedy and cost effective alternative to litigation and having a Judge decide the case.
Informal ADR is whatever form the taxpayer and HMRC want the negotiation to take place in. It can take whatever form the parties decide and can conclude with a legally binding agreement between the parties.
Formal ADR within Tax Disputes can take place only after the taxpayer has appealed to the First Tier Tax Tribunal. The alternative to litigation in this instance is a mediation process. An experienced and accredited mediator is appointed by the parties.
Mediation can be a very useful process to enable both the lawyers for the taxpayer and HMRC to fully appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of their own case and each others.
Olliers Solicitors have years of experience of mediation in a range of tax, insolvency and commercial settings. Contact Olliers Solicitors for assistance by experienced and specialist tax lawyers.
Which taxes can the Tax Tribunal make decisions about?
The First Tier Tax Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear appealable matters in relation to the following direct and indirect taxes:
- Income Tax
- Corporation Tax
- Capital Gains Tax
- Inheritance Tax
- Value Added Tax (VAT)
- Customs Duties
- Alcohol Excise Duties
- Tobacco Excise Duties
- Insurance Premium Tax
- Landfill Tax
- Climate Change Levy
- Aggregates Levy
- Hydrocarbon Oil Duties
- Betting and Gaming Duties
- Stamp Duty Reserve Tax
- Stamp Duty Land Tax
Olliers Solicitors can give expert litigation and Tax Tribunals advice about any of the taxes detailed above.
Tell me about the HMRC Appeal Process
In order for an appeal to proceed to a Tax Tribunal there first needs to be a decision made by HMRC. That decision can be an assessment to tax, a decision to impose a penalty, a decision to deny the operation or applicability of a relief, or to decline an application for a tax credit.
In the event that a taxpayer disagrees with HMRC, there is then a two step process for a taxpayer to dispute that HMRC decision:
What is an Informal Review?
In the first instance the taxpayer ought to inform HMRC that the decision is intended to be appealed by way of an informal review. Ordinarily, the time limit is 30 days from the date of the decision.
The options available for HMRC at that stage are to either confirm their first decision, amend their first decision or agree with the taxpayer’s reasoning either in whole or in part.
In the event that the taxpayer and HMRC are not in agreement the taxpayer can then either seek a formal internal review by a different HMRC Officer or appeal directly to the Tax Tribunal.
This is a critical time in the dispute with HMRC. It should always be borne in mind that in many instances the jurisdiction of the Tribunal is limited to a consideration of whether the decision taking HMRC Officer has used his “best judgement” in arriving at the decision in dispute. Therefore, the facts and arguments that the taxpayer would wish to rely on at trial should be put before the relevant HMRC officer at this stage.
Engaging tax disputes lawyers at this early stage will not only give you the best chance of getting the correct decision at the earliest opportunity but it will also avail you of all the arguments you will need to rely upon at trial in front of a Judge. Contact Olliers Solicitors for specialist tax tribunal advice.
Formal Internal Review by Different HMRC Officer
An internal review of the disputed decision in which a different HMRC officer reviews the original decision.
For the most part and in non-politically sensitive areas the taxpayer can expect genuine independence of thought from the first decision.
If the taxpayer is to avoid the original decision being deemed a settled dispute under section 54 of the Taxes Management Act 1970 then the taxpayer either needs to seek an Internal Formal Review by a different HMRC Officer or lodge an appeal with the First Tier Tax Tribunal within the permitted time periods, namely 30 days.
However, there are still many occasions in which there is a divergent position between the parties. This may be because the issue in question is politically sensitive such as marketed tax avoidance schemes, carousel fraud or something else. Alternatively, HMRC’s own internal position on the matter may be set by their Policy Team. This may leave little room for genuine independence of thought on the part of the reviewing officer even where HMRC are wrong in law.
The experienced tax litigation lawyers at Olliers Solicitors can advise you about whether it is advisable to seek an internal independent review or whether to bypass that step and appeal directly to a Tax Tribunal.
Appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal
Most decisions that HMRC make that affect a taxpayer when assessing a liability to a tax, the imposition of a penalty, the applicability of a relief or the claim or a credit amount to an “appealable decision”. This means that a taxpayer can appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal if the taxpayer and HMRC can not come to a mutually agreed position.
What is the First Tier Tax Tribunal?
The First Tier Tax Tribunal is a statutory Court created by Parliament to hear appeals against specified decisions of HMRC Officers. The Tribunal Judges are commonly practising solicitors or barristers. The Court is normally comprised of a Judge and either one or two lay members who are often accountants.
The independent tribunal will make a decision after hearing evidence and representations by the taxpayer and HMRC.
How will the First Tier Tax Tribunal deal with my tax dispute?
There has been a huge change of culture in the statutory Tax Tribunals over the last 10 to 15 years. The forerunners to the First Tier Tax Tribunal were the VAT and Excise Duties Tribunal (in the case of indirect taxes for which HM Customs & Excise was responsible) and the Special Commissioners (in the case of direct taxes for which HM Inland Revenue was responsible).
The approach of the Tax Tribunal now is very much more akin to the County Court and High Court. Time limits are now much more strictly imposed and procedure is much more important. Tax Judges will now expect evidence and skeleton arguments to be prepared properly by professional advisors.
This is why it is important that tax specialist lawyers are instructed to deal with disputes as opposed to accountants or tax advisors who are unlikely to have litigation experience.
Contact Olliers Solicitors for advice about the procedural requirements of Tax Tribunal proceedings.
What is the process likely to be in the First Tier Tax Tribunal?
The First Tier Tax Tribunal will case-manage the dispute. The Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal) Rules 2009 govern the way in which the Tax Tribunal will manage the case.
Ultimately, the Tribunal wants to set directions for the parties to follow that will allow the matter to reach a trial. The directions will relate to the filing and service of evidence, whether expert evidence will be required, disclosure of documents, length of trial and how long the trial is likely to last.
In order to automate and speed up those case management functions the Tribunal Rules require the Tribunal to give a direction allocating each case to one of four categories, which all have different procedures:
- Default Paper cases: ordinarily involve uncomplicated issues where the facts are simple and there is little dispute as to the law. The First Tier Tax Tribunal will determine the issue without a hearing (unless either party has requested one).
- Basic cases: typically include standard tax penalties and covers both direct and indirect taxes and includes VAT “migration appeals” as well as all “reasonable excuse” appeals. These cases are generally disposed of at a hearing and involve a minimal exchange of documents prior to the hearing.
- Standard cases: the cases that can be diposed of in one day, in an area of uncomplicated law, with one witness providing uncontested evidence, are assigned to the Standard track.
- Complex cases: cases are assigned here if it satisfies one of the conditions in rule 23 of the The Tribunal Procedure (First Tier Tribunal) Rules 2009. Cases will be allocated to the Complex category if the case is likely to involve lengthy evidence or hearing time, there is a complex or important issue or it involves a large financial sum.
Contact Olliers Solicitors as experienced Tax Counsel for expert advice about Tax Tribunal procedure questions.
What if I disagree with the decision made by the First Tier Tax Tribunal?
Where you believe that the First Tier Tax Tribunal has misapplied the law or arrived at a decision that no competent Tribunal could have arrived at you could appeal to the Upper Tier Tax Tribunal. Strict time limits apply.
Speak to Olliers Solicitors to advise you about your prospects of appealing to the Upper Tier Tax Tribunal from a decision of the First Tier Tax Tribunal.