Testing the Tax Tribunals

Philip McNeil By Philip McNeill, Head of Taxation, Practice and Small Business

30 May 2017

The Tax Tribunal service is all set to go online.  And it is looking for volunteers to test the system before it goes public.  Do you want to join in as an agent or as a taxpayer?

Ready steady

With Tax Tribunal Fees under Ministerial review, there is no costs involved. Volunteers get to see the system first and give feedback on possible improvements to the Ministry of Justice.

The online service permits both notices of appeal and closure request for tax enquiries.  To join the private beta pilot, contact the tribunals’ help desk.

Before jumping in

Appealing to the First-Tier Tribunal Tax (FTT) brings practitioners into a completely different world.

Proceedings are formal and unless you are familiar with taking cases to the FTT it is strongly recommended you first attend a public hearing to gain an understanding of procedures.  You may also wish to consider discussing the position with someone who regularly takes cases to the FTT.

Alternatives to the FTT

Don’t forget alternatives to FTT.  Key alternatives are HMRC Independent Review and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Independent HMRC review can be particularly useful if new facts have come to light.  You can also reconsider the strength of your arguments and refine your case.

Independent review

Independent review is a new look at your case by an HMRC official unconnected with the initial decision.  It is not ‘third party’ independent.

In recent years, HMRC’s decisions have been varied or cancelled by independent review in just under half of cases relating to penalties and in around a third of non-penalty cases.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Avoid all or nothing outcomes with ADR.  ADR is best where there is a disputed decision or simply where negotiations have broken down.

Some decisions cannot be reviewed by ADR, for example, decisions about whether to allow a late review or a late appeal.

Don’t forget Scottish Taxes

For Scottish Tax appeals, there is a review, option to mediate, and escalation prior to going to the Tribunal.

This covers Land and Buildings Transactions Tax (LBTT) and Scottish Landfill tax (SLfT) – and, in due course, Air Departure Tax and Aggregates Levy.

From 24 April 2017 appeals in Scotland regarding these devolved taxes are dealt with by the newly formed Scottish Tribunal service.


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