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Where Taxpayers and Advisers Meet
Appealing to the Tribunal
18/08/2012, by Andrew Needham, Tax Articles - VAT & Excise Duties
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A brief guide to the process of getting a case heard before a tax tribunal, by Andrew Needham of VAT Specialists Limited.

Appealing to the Tax Chamber

If you receive an assessment or ruling and following an internal review HMRC maintains that it is correct the next step is to appeal to the Tax Chamber of the Tribunal Service. In the first instance the appeal is to the First-tier Tribunal with the right of a further appeal to the Upper Tribunal.  An appeal to the Upper Tribunal has to be on a point of law and with permission from the First-tier Tribunal. In complex cases it is possible to be heard by the Upper Tribunal in the first instance.  A trader can represent him- or herself or engage a professional accountant, tax consultant or solicitor.  Even if you are successful in the appeal you are unlikely to have your costs paid, so it will be necessary to decide if the appeal is commercially viable.

Statement of Case

To enter an appeal you need to complete a form TS-TaxAp1. The Tribunal Service will acknowledge an appeal and forward a copy to HMRC, which then has 30 days within which to submit a Statement of Case in response, which justifies the original assessment or decision. HMRC hardly ever meets this time limit because of its workload. Usually, they will submit several requests for an extension of time. Normally a Tribunal appeal will take about 12 months to be heard. 

Certain procedures have to be followed when making an appeal and it is essential that you prepare well before the hearing. In some circumstances a ‘skeleton argument’ (written summary of your case) will need to be prepared along with a list of documents, witness statements and an agreed ‘bundle’ of documents.

When HMRC submits the Statement of Case, the Tribunal Service will forward it to you. A little later, they will ask for dates over the next few months during which you are not available, which of various possible locations would be preferable for the hearing, how many days the case is likely to take, and how many witnesses will be called.

Preparation is Key

A case is often won on the basis of carefully prepared evidence. Good preparation requires careful assessment well in advance of:

  • facts upon which the case depends;
  • evidence of those facts;
  • relevant documentation, such as copies of contracts;
  • possible witnesses.

The Hearing Itself

A Tribunal hearing is relatively informal, but evidence is given on oath:

  • normally the appellant must present its case against the assessment or decision, and call witnesses;
  • HMRC then replies and calls their witnesses;
  • the appellant has a right of reply.

In dishonesty cases, HMRC starts first because they have to prove that there has been dishonesty.

Once the tribunal has heard both sides to the case, then for basic hearings a decision may be reached immediately but for more complex cases it is more common for a written decision to be issued within the next 28 days – this is usually subject to appeal, if either party is unhappy with the finding.

Further information can be found at:

Making an Appeal and
At Your Hearing

About The Author

Andrew Needham BA CTA is Director of VAT Specialists Limited and a leading author and adviser on Indirect Tax matters.

Andrew has a degree in Law from UCNW Bangor and is a Chartered Tax Adviser. Andrew has over 20 years' experience in VAT having spent 7 years in HM Customs & Excise, firstly as a VAT inspector, then as a departmental trainer, and finally in a headquarters policy unit dealing with the introduction of the EU single market.

After leaving Customs he joined Deloitte & Touche as a VAT consultant in Liverpool and then Manchester, where he qualified as a Chartered Tax Adviser. Andrew then moved to London where he worked on formulating indirect tax planning ideas, writing articles for tax publications, and was author of Deloitte’s Weekly VAT News. From Deloitte’s, Andrew moved to Ernst & Young in Manchester as a senior indirect tax consultant, where he managed the indirect tax affairs of several multi-national companies.

In 2001 Andrew left Ernst & Young to form VAT Solutions (UK) Limited with a co-Director. In September 2009 Andrew formed his own VAT consultancy practice, VAT Specialists Limited.

Andrew is VAT adviser to the Forum of Private Business and represents them quarterly on the Joint VAT Consultative Committee.

VAT Specialists Ltd
Chartered Tax Advisers
31 Bisham Park, Sandymoor
Runcorn, Cheshire.
WA7 1XH

(E) andrew@vatspecialists.net
(T) 01928 571207
(F) 01928 571202
(M) 07810 433926
(W) www.vatspecialists.net

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