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This week's opinion: 16 May 2024

13 May 2024 / Andrew Hubbard
Issue: 4936 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
All HMRC employees are not the same

Here are two quotes from recent tax cases:

‘We experienced some difficulty in ascertaining, from HMRC’s grounds of appeal, the exact nature of the errors of law which HMRC contended had been made in the decision. The grounds of appeal were in a narrative form and seemed to consist of a series of interrelated complaints about and disagreements with the decision’ (J Hitchens [2024] UKUT 00114 (TCC)).

‘We also heard Mr Smith, for HMRC. He was a most impressive witness. He was prepared to make concessions to Mr Peacock in cross examination and did so without qualification or argument. It was a model of giving evidence that assisted us greatly’ (D Plumpton TC9156).

Readers will not need me to tell them that HMRC’s performance before tribunals is not always, to put it mildly, of the highest quality. I and others have often drawn attention to cases where HMRC has fallen short of expected standards or, more worryingly, persisted in taking cases which should never have gone to tribunal in the first place. So it is right to show the other side of the coin and draw attention to cases where an HMRC officer’s performance has been praised by the tribunal.

It is all too easy for us (and I include myself in this) to think of HMRC as a vast amorphous organisation rather than a collection of individuals. No doubt, as in any organisation, there are variable standards among its employees, but I think that there is a danger that legitimate criticism of HMRC as an organisation spills over into an assumption that everybody in HMRC must therefore be a poor performer. I’ve seen some comments on public forums which come dangerously close to that. Let’s not go there.

If you do one thing…

See HMRC’s new guidance on how it deals with strike offs at the end of an insolvency procedure at COM42210.

Issue: 4936 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
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