“Yet another sorry tale of HMRC institutional incompetence and inefficiency”

Monday 2 October 2017

VO v Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (TC): [2017] UKUT 343 (AAC), UT Judge Wikeley, 18 August 2017

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VO v Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (TC): [2017] UKUT 343 (AAC), UT Judge Wikeley, 18 August 2017

This was VO’s (the appellant’s) appeal against HMRC’s entitlement decision of 31.07.13, that she was not entitled to tax credits for the 2012/13 tax year because she had failed to respond to its letter of 15.05.13, asking for details of her work, her responsibility for her child and the childcare charges she had paid, and in the absence of the requested information HMRC was entitled to terminate her tax credits award for that year.

VO’s case was that she had written to HMRC and had provided original documents, but these were never returned to her. Hence, she was not in a position to resend them. The appeal response prepared by HMRC for the FTT, however, did not contain any record of VO’s correspondence to HMRC and the appeal was dismissed by a FFT Judge on this basis.

The UT Judge granted permission to appeal due to various discrepancies in the appeal papers and, based on past experience, he was “not at all confident that all relevant evidence was presented to the Tribunal by HMRC”.

Enquiries made after permission was granted showed that HMRC did receive correspondence from VO on 30.05.13, albeit that the HMRC tax credits computer could only show a screenshot of the letter.

Allowing VO’s appeal, the Judge observed that this was “yet another sorry tale of HMRC institutional incompetence and inefficiency which could well have led to injustice, were it not for the persistence of the appellant” (para 3).

Having described the standard of the HMRC appeal response in this case as a “disgrace”, UT Judge Wikeley said:

“Given that only about 1-2% of all FTT decisions are appealed to the Upper Tribunal, and given that many appellants are unrepresented, the FTT judiciary must be alert to the need to interrogate HMRC written responses with a combination of studied scepticism and searching if not anxious scrutiny.” (para 3).

Comment:

It is difficult to add anything to what the UT Judge says in his decision about the poor standards of many HMRC responses to appeals at first instance save that there is little reason to believe that things will improve, given that the Judge made similar criticisms in his decision issued back in September 2015 (NI v Revenue and Customs (TC) [2015] UKUT 490 (AAC)).

The decision is available here: VO v Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (TC): [2017] UKUT 343 (AAC), 18 August 2017.

Desmond Rutledge is a member of the Administrative and Public Law Team at Garden Court Chambers.

 

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