HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Power Corrupts

Accountancy Age reports a rather interesting story about HMRC arresting a tax advisor on the day he was due to give evidence in a capital gains tax tribunal, only for the charges to be dropped on the same day.

However, and here's the "rub", his briefcase containing his court papers for the day (where he was to act on behalf of a client) were seized; ie legally privileged information was taken and read by HMRC.

The arrest took place last year, but the facts are only now coming out.

Watkin Gittins of Montpelier Tax Consultants was representing Brian and Doreen Foulser in a dispute over holdover relief from capital gains tax. The courts found in principle that the couple was liable to pay tax on £27M worth of shares, which was sent to the first-tier tribunal to determine.

However, on the day of the tribunal hearing (27 September 2010), Gittins was arrested on suspicion of cheating HMRC and false accounting. He was also asked to hand over his briefcase and his premises were searched,.

He was released the same day without charge, and no charges have been brought against him since.

In January 2011, Gittins took the Central Criminal Court to the High Court for granting the warrants. The High Court found that the Central Criminal Court and HMRC had acted fairly.

The Foulser case was adjourned on 27 September and the appellants made an application to remove HMRC from the proceedings based on its "serious misbehaviour", which would have the effect of allowing their appeal.

The Foulsers said that HMRC had obtained sight of legally privileged and confidential material held by Gittins relevant to the hearing. They also claimed that HMRC had arrested Gittins for the purposes of: alerting the tribunal hearing to the arrest and detention; causing the postponement of the hearing; causing publicity to the arrest of Gittins and thus embarrassing the appellants; and "oppressively" placing pressure on them.

Judge Roger Berner dismissed the application to disbar HMRC. He decided that it did not have this power and another court would have to make the decision whether to allow HMRC to make representations.

A representative of Gittins said the procedural decision was going to be appealed so it would be inappropriate to comment further.

This is a case that will be one to watch.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. This is scary.

    I'm no legal expert but it seems to me that the appellant has basically been shoved in to a corner as this is a tribunal case brought by them to disagree with an assessment rather than HMRC.

    The tribunal judge unfortunately cannot dismiss the HMRC assessment on the grounds that the evidence to support it was gathered in such an appalling manner.

    HMRC information disclosure guidelines highlight that such papers should not be read as it could prejudice a later enquiry if it could be proved that information obtained in such a manner were used by HMRC.

    The appellants (or their agents) could of course take out a civil suit directly against the HMRC employees concerned. There is nothing in law stopping this from happening.

  2. Of course HMRC are happy to use stolen data, too - cf. Liechtenstein, and cit legal privilege when it siuts - cf. PAC

  3. Is Mr Gittins in a position to have legally privileged status to any documents?

    Given Montpelier Tax Consultants website, I can quite see that HMRC would view them as active tax avoiders and therefore attack the firm. Or, is it just a case that HMRC were very worried about the taxpayers' case?

    In any case, this seems to be a perfect case for examination by the parliamentary committee.

  4. "I'm no legal expert but "

    I wonder how many fruitless legal forays have been launched to that paticular cry..........

  5. @19.57 I guess we'll see if this case is fruitless or not won't we as it's under appeal.

  6. @2 November 2011 19:57

    To be fair. I wonder how many fruitless argumentative forays start with Anonymous said..."


  7. Not guilty. Judge threw out hmrc's bogus "cheat" case on 12 th September 2014 for no evidence after a week of court time. Hmrc agreed. Wtf is going on!!!!