Terminal illness is not a reasonable excuse

A man with a terminal illness did not have a reasonable excuse for paying his tax late because of his illness, a tribunal has ruled.

Matthew Roper collapsed in July 2011 and was diagnosed as having a brain tumour. He said that his illness prevented him from paying tax due by 31 January 2012.

He appealed against three penalties for late payment of tax.

HMRC said that although it was and remains compassionate to Roper’s personal circumstances, to have a reasonable excuse for paying tax late an individual must show that he or she has taken action to correct the breach of an obligation as soon as possible.

The Revenue argued that Roper had not done this.

Despite his health problems, Roper filed his 2010-11 tax return on time. He filed his tax return electronically on 6 January 2012.

As part of the filing process Roper was able to calculate his own tax liability and enter the figure on to his own tax return. His tax return shows that he calculated his tax liability as £2,320.68.

After filing the tax return HMRC argued that Roper or someone acting on his behalf, would have been able to pay the tax using by transferring money electronically via the same online system.

HMRC will sometimes agree to allow a taxpayer to settle an outstanding tax debt in monthly instalments.

But to avoid a penalty, HMRC requires that contact is established prior to the penalty date.

HMRC said that there was no evidence to show that Roper or his representative (his wife) asked HMRC for help with paying the tax due.

There is no statutory definition of “reasonable excuse”, although a common definition is an unexpected or unusual event that is either unforeseeable or beyond the taxpayer's control, and which prevents someone from paying their tax on time.

In its ruling, the first tier tribunal [Matthew Roper v the commissioners for HMRC, TCO3857] accepted that Roper has been unable to work because of his illness and did not have the means to pay his outstanding tax.

But the tribunal also said that it was not clear why Roper failed to arrange a payment plan for paying his tax after he filed his tax return online.

“There would appear to be no reason why either he or his appointed representative, his wife, could not have contacted HMRC to arrange a method of paying the outstanding tax over a suitable period of time,” tribunal judge Michael Connell said.

Comments

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some sympathy for HMRC    3 thanks

justsotax | | Permalink

individual calcs tax and submits own tax return but the decides not to pay the tax...

stepurhan's picture

Simplest part    3 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

In all honesty, whilst not welcome, paying the tax is the simplest part. If he was well enough to prepare and submit the return, it seems not unreasonable to conclude he was well enough to arrange payment. If he had already been so ill as to not be able to prepare the return, then that would be a different matter.

A bit harsh on the poor man.    13 thanks

leon0001 | | Permalink

I should have thought that it is reasonable to expect a terminally ill person to have other priorities. He has other more pressing things to worry about.

Having read the judgement, I am appalled at the total lack of understanding of the taxpayer's state of mind. He is dying and knows it. Why not just be satisfied with the tax and interest to be subsequently claimed from his estate. These penalties are manifestly unfair.

@ justsotax - words fail me. Have you ever watched someone die slowly from a brain tumour? Pain, then a gradual loss of faculties, memory and personality - a really horrible way to go.

stepurhan's picture

Other priorities    2 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

I'm not saying he wouldn't, and indeed shouldn't, have other priorities. That being the case, one wonders why he made compiling and filing a tax return one of those priorities, especially if he knew he didn't have the means to pay it. One further wonders why, having made filing the return a priority, he didn't take that one extra step that could have avoided all this.

Maybe this should be a cue for looking at the use of "reasonable excuse" in legislation. It has always been too vague and woolly. Whilst a comprehensive list is impossible, a list of specific circumstances could work. Make such things as terminal illness of taxpayer or a close relative an automatic reasonable excuse, with a fallback of "any other reasonable excuse" similar to the current provisions.

I would not wish this illness on anyone, but the decision seems correct on the law as it stands. If he was capable of filing the return, then nothing outside his control had happened to prevent him either paying the tax due, or making arrangements for payment. Harsh, but correct in law. 

Reasonable?    14 thanks

leon0001 | | Permalink

Outside his control? Someone with a brain tumour is likely to be subject to lapses of memory, logic, judgement and reason. The effects of powerful medication also need to be considered. Also fear.

It is unreasonable to assume that he would act in a calm and logical way.

The illness is also progressive. How he felt and reasoned when he submitted the return might no longer be the case even hours later. He might also have no idea as to his exact prognosis and would therefore be in no position to determine what instalments, if any, might be appropriate.

In short, his behaviour is as reasonable as you could expect from a person in his situation. Surely such loss of capacity is a reasonable excuse. 

sorry, don't agree with tribunal's decision!    14 thanks

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

Just when did tax become so so ruthless?!?

I feel that hmrc/gov/ establishment have forgotten that health/life/work/ money/etc surely comes before tax. Yes to collection of tax is important, but it should never be allowed to be the priority.

This current penalty system is wrong and is wrong on a number of levels and sadly a chap that has a terminal illness has now sufferred unduly even after the event of not being able to work and therefore not being able to pay the tax.

It was unclear why he had failed to make a payment plan. Probably tried phoning hmrc and waiting hours for someone at hmrc to answer or the phone cutting off several times and him thinking there is more to my limited life than dealing with this.

Just highlights to me how ruthless hmrc have become and for me this is unacceptable (even of legal) in a civil society. HMRc should hold their head in shames, once again.

Oh well, let's hope the gov doesn't buckle on their pay and conditions entitlements.

.

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

Where is Robin Hood when you need him?

appointed representative "his wife"    10 thanks

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

So he used his wife, not a professional accountant/tax advisor. Is this because he could not afford to do so?

Was he represented by his wife at ttribunal? How much has this cost hmrc in time and employee costs to bring this to tribunal? Were they able to walk all over him due to the fact he was dying and had no money to fight his case and even be properly represented.

I would like to know if he was able to obtain any professional advice before or at the tribunal for assistance or defence.

Left for words at how disgusted, yet again, I am with hmrc and the current tax and penalty system.

just seems    1 thanks

justsotax | | Permalink

strange that he completed his return....perhaps what should also be considered is that the tax due would be paying for treatment etc (yes the government waste money...but everyone complains when NICE decide not to purchase a drug because it is not value for money - are these the same people who choose not to pay their taxes on time?)

looks to me...    3 thanks

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

"In its ruling, the first tier tribunal [Matthew Roper v the commissioners for HMRC, TCO3857] accepted that Roper has been unable to work because of his illness and did not have the means to pay his outstanding tax."

Not too sure where his choice to pay his tax on time was? Perhaps tax comes before food now?

I would agree there are a lot of people who choose not to pay their fair share of tax, dotas scheme members for one, MP's for another. BUT I do not see why a dying person should be forced to choose paying tax over food (my terms) or indeed a dignified ending to his life. There appears to be no choice in this case.

carnmores's picture

one word    11 thanks

carnmores | | Permalink

Batards

It Does.    12 thanks

thehaggis | | Permalink

Jekyll and Hyde wrote:
"Perhaps tax comes before food now?

For 30 million people on PAYE, it does.

Tax before food    4 thanks

the_Poacher | | Permalink

I think this was a very harsh decision but remember that for those of us on PAYE, tax comes before everything.

a fair point.    4 thanks

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

thehaggis wrote:

Jekyll and Hyde wrote:
"Perhaps tax comes before food now?

For 30 million people on PAYE, it does.

Edited: as my issue here is not with employed people, who in my opinion, are treated as unfairly by hmrc as small business. What I would say is that hmrc have settled/written off a lot of employed people's taxes in connection with PAYE coding errors over the last few years, without late payment penalties due to hardship (which I consider to be right and fair) so I cannot see why they could not have cancelled this late payment penalty due to hardship and circumstances. That is my main point. I would like to know what the average cost to hmrc of bring a case to FTT. I am all for people paying the right amount of tax, I am also for havibg a fair system and not a robotic system that persecutes the ill, and less fortunate. I'm an era when hmrc settles and agree taxes with large corporates, implements a dotas system to enable the rich to reduce tax, writes of taxes for a number of other reasons including tax code underpayments of tax, decided to pursue terminal ill person that doesn't have the means to pay the tax. Better they get the maximum possible amount of of him before he dies as we won't get anything afterwards!

This just does not sit well for me and unfortunately no sugar coating will change my disgusted opinion on this. In a era where Max Clifford is allowed out of prision to attend a funeral on compassionate grounds, hmrc are not prepared to cancel a penalty on compassionate grounds.

Unfortuately, this article comes in the same week when I read a article that DWP refused benefit to an individual with a terminal illness on the basis that "they contributed to their condition". And I am disgusted at both.

ShirleyM's picture

We only have half the facts    6 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

It could be that the tribunal had information which has not been publicised, ie. when he learned he had a terminal illness he may have given all his money to his wife/daughter/son, or maybe he filed his tax return and then thought 'sod the payment, by the time they come chasing for the money I won't be here so I''ll enjoy it while I can'.

I can't believe they would be so harsh on a terminally ill person who had genuine financial problems not of his own making.

Some on here justifying it.    8 thanks

trotters | | Permalink

Instead of persuing the Vodafones, Amazons, Google and the thousands of fraudsters and avoiders, they decide it's more important to chase a dying man for what in the scheme of things will be a trifling sum.

You can see the Inspectors saying "lets make an example of this man, just because he's dying blah blah blah".

I can't believe this.

 

Flash Gordon's picture

Seriously?    8 thanks

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

trotters wrote:

Instead of persuing the Vodafones, Amazons, Google and the thousands of fraudsters and avoiders, they decide it's more important to chase a dying man for what in the scheme of things will be a trifling sum.

You can see the Inspectors saying "lets make an example of this man, just because he's dying blah blah blah".

I can't believe this.

They're not making an example of him, they're doing their job. It's not up to the small fry at HMRC to change the policy towards taxation of big companies, it's their job to pursue overdue tax liabilities. All this guy had to do was get in touch with them (either himself or via someone else) and explain the situation. But he didn't. They're not mind readers.

Besides, is he dead yet? Did he die shortly after filing? Within seconds of pressing the button? Terminal doesn't always mean 'going to die within days'. People can live for years. They just do so knowing that at some point they're going to be killed (other things being equal) by whatever condition they have. He could have a terminal illness but with a life expectancy of 5 years - yes it's crap but that doesn't mean that rules cease to apply to him. 

Happy Up North Accountant's picture

A race to the bottom

Happy Up North ... | | Permalink

Flash Gordon wrote:

trotters wrote:

Instead of persuing the Vodafones, Amazons, Google and the thousands of fraudsters and avoiders, they decide it's more important to chase a dying man for what in the scheme of things will be a trifling sum.

You can see the Inspectors saying "lets make an example of this man, just because he's dying blah blah blah".

I can't believe this.

They're not making an example of him, they're doing their job. It's not up to the small fry at HMRC to change the policy towards taxation of big companies, it's their job to pursue overdue tax liabilities. All this guy had to do was get in touch with them (either himself or via someone else) and explain the situation. But he didn't. They're not mind readers.

Besides, is he dead yet? Did he die shortly after filing? Within seconds of pressing the button? Terminal doesn't always mean 'going to die within days'. People can live for years. They just do so knowing that at some point they're going to be killed (other things being equal) by whatever condition they have. He could have a terminal illness but with a life expectancy of 5 years - yes it's crap but that doesn't mean that rules cease to apply to him. 

I agree it's not up to the small fry to direct HMRC policy and that PERHAPS a terminal illness might not affect one's ability to pay depending upon the circumstances but given the way HMRC have treat the companies mentioned by trotters with absolute kid gloves I can't see how the way they treat most of the common tax payer, particularly those with terminal illnesses, in a much fervent manner actually sits right with accountants who deal with HMRC BS on a daily basis - I know I do.

That doesn't mean to say I'm an auto-critic when it comes to any HMRC matters, but I can appreciate how obscene and irrational they can be.

Yes, the people dealing with this case were just doing their jobs. Why can't other departments do it just as strictly elsewhere?

And this argument about "well, I'm PAYE and I have to pay my taxes" just smacks of callous pettiness. Of course, if this taxpayer was PAYE so would he but the FACT is that he wasn't and the FACT is he had a terminal illness and the FACT is that we haven't known the total details of his circumstances. If they guy submitted his return on 6th April, had 5 years years to live and felt fine and dandy from this point up to 31st Jan, fine, I agree. As it remains, I don't believe we know this. 

everyone should read the full case notes and form .....    6 thanks

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

..... Their opinion. My still stands that it is wrong!

He was represented by his wife! Not a professional. He was on benefits and probably couldn't afford an accountant. We all know how complicated the tax system and penalty system i. And we are bloody accountants.

HMRC pursed this because they are too afraid to go after the rich. Leichenstein disclosure agreement 10% penalty for aggressive tax evasion rather than 70 - 100%.

The case is one where if he was presented from the outset he possible would have done things differently, however as the case states, he was informed of his grade 4 brain tumour and only had 6-12 months to live! Not 5 years.

So let's all be honest on this site, if you were not an accountant and you were only given 6 - 12 months to live, and you had lost your business, undertaking chemo, what would be on the front of your minds. Oh, NICE needs the money for new medication, I had better forget about living on my benefits and pay all to pay tax. AND he did settle some of his tax and did not have the means to do so.

Lets be honest, if you were today given 6-12 months to live, what would you do? And what would your priorities be? Mine would be to hand my business over to the best accountant I know and hope they would be decent enough to pay the right amount, I would spend as much quality time with my two daughters and family and I would that the accountant I sold to would do my final accounts and tax return. I would not care any longer, but would ensure that in 2 months time my tax would be settled. BUT I am an accountant, this guy isn't. His business is likely to have collapsed the day he was diagnosed and he could not afford professional advice.

I have said it before, this is wrong and should never have gone to tribunal. Those low level staff at hmrc have a choice to do they job to the fullest or to do as most of them do when I phone and do the miminal possible. They chose to take this case to the tribunal and got a penalty of £300 upheld.

What a complete waste of tax payers money, what a harsh thing they have done and just shows hmrc and their staff for whom they are.

Flash Gordon's picture

With all due respect    4 thanks

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

It says that he collapsed in July 2011 and filed his return in January 2012 - 6 months after the diagnosis of 6 to 12 months. And that he was still alive in 2014. If he was well enough to file his tax return he was, in my opinion, well enough to consider that something needed to be done about the payment, even if he couldn't afford it. You don't need a specialist to ring HMRC and say 'I owe this but I'm dying and can't afford it'. His wife could have done that. At that point she'd probably have managed to convince someone that he's trying to sort things out as much as possible and would have been given time to pay (potentially from the estate in due course). 

If he'd been so unwell that he'd not managed to file a return then maybe I'd take a different view. But he did. And he knew what he owed. You can't complain when some parts of HMRC don't do what they're supposed to if you're going to complain that some parts follow it to the letter. They all should. They don't, but they should. If people don't pay tax when they're due to then there won't be any benefits when they're really needed.

If I knew I had a short time to live I'd make sure that all my affairs were up to date so that no-one else got lumbered with them. 

 

stepurhan's picture

One rule for the rich?    5 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

Hypothetically, let's say this case was about the CEO of one of the companies cited as not paying their full whack of tax instead. Same diagnosis. Same inability to work after the diagnosis. Same submission of tax return. Same failure to pay. Would all those citing those companies' behaviour as justification for not applying the law say that he should be let off a penalty as well?

If not, then why not? If the argument is that the law should be the same across the board, then isn't it just as hypocritical to say it should only apply to the rich? The law should be applied across the board equally, for rich and poor alike. When you start granting any group unjustified exemptions, then the system ceases to be fair. If you think it's wrong that someone with a terminal illness is penalised for an undeniable failure, lobby for a change in the law to get that recognised as a reasonable excuse for everyone regardless of means. 

Incidentally, I find "big companies get away with stuff, so this guy should be let off" a horribly flawed argument. Ever heard of "two wrongs don't make a right"? Use big companies getting away with stuff as a justification for avoiding payment at any level, and suddenly there is no money to do anything.

 

Stephan, answer yes

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

If ceo of one of those companies had been diagnosed with similar illness and had no means to continue to work, had no means to pay the tax, had no means to appoint professional repesentation. Then my answer is yes as it doesn't matter about past circumstances, I am discussing that current circumstance. In much the same way as what Rolfe Harris had done, his historical stance has no bearing.

However if the same CEO had resources/means to pay the tax and appoint professional representation as a result of past financial planning and was not paying the tax out of spite, then as this is not the same my answer would be different and no.

So comparing apples with pears will result in a different answer. Comparing apples with apples will give same answer.

If you reread my earlier comments you will see that I highlighted the issue of not having the means to pay.

So as for a tax system, you could call me a hypocrite in that I do not accept that the current system is fair or right. I also know how the word privileged derived from. As I have an ability to calculate and pay my taxes, I expect to be treated as non defiant should I choice not to pay and expect a penalty and tax system to act accordingly, same as a ceo that have espresso to pay and decides not to. Same as the rich and large corporates.

As I highlighted above previous, even PAYe people who have had the unfortunate situation of havibg PA allocated to more than one employment/pension has had the ability to have their additional tax write off due to hardship.

There has been tax cases on reasonable excuse on late payment penalties, one being cash flow successfully won. So had legal aid still been around and had he have had the ability to appoint proper repesentation then perhaps there could have at least been some defence mounted in connection to his mental state of mind at that time time (with potentially knowledge of less than 6 months to live).

As for HMRC staff that strike over their pay and conditions, but are not wiling to do same for the tax payers, I have no time for. The system is wrong and geared for the wrong people and as I accept the system is wrong I voice my views for the less fortunate/priveledge as I hope that if the tables were against me, someone would stand up for me.

Question for all? Do hmrc have the powers in legislation to overturn an automatic penalty? Do they have the ability to suspend penalties?

Was this a deliberate act or was it simply careless not to phone?

If this chap is still alive now and he has the means to pay, then I think hmrc should pursue the tax due. If not then they should write it off.

The issue is about whethe there is a reasonable reasonable excuse for non payment of tax and whether a penalty for non payment should stand. In the case of a terminal ill person, with no means to pay the tax either at the time or since, then I believe the answer is no to the penalty. A penalty should be for people that can but choice not to! What I have read on this case is he was unaware of an illness, which resulted in an inability to pay tax and sadly unable to pay the tax received a further cost for not doing so. As most suspect the penalty system is geared to increase the take to government and what a penalty system should do is be geared to penalising people that can but don't.

Yes the system is wrong and yes I believe it should be changed

why would you even    4 thanks

justsotax | | Permalink

bother filing a return if things were that bad....rather than making the effort to diligently file the return and then not pick up the phone or write a letter to the Revenue to say you cannot afford to pay the bill.  Then make further efforts at the impending end of your life by taking HMRC to a tribunal to argue over £300 that you haven't got.  That's what doesn't make sense (I presume we are not talking about a guy living in a bedsit with only a pen to his name....) 

Believe it...

leon0001 | | Permalink

@ ShirleyM

This is the way they deal with unrepresented taxpayers.

Duh!    4 thanks

leon0001 | | Permalink

@ Justsotax

1. The guy has a brain tumour, why would you expect his actions to make sense any or all of the time? - see my comments above.

2. I'd be absolutely amazed if the information in the return bore any semblance of accuracy or completeness.

3. HMRC are going to get the tax and interest anyway - we are talking about a penalty, which implies neglect or intention on the taxpayer's part. If this had been the former surcharge, I wouldn't be so angry, but then again I am sure that the people who used to work at Shipley wouldn't have been so harsh.

4. At least any late filing and payment penalties incurred after he is dead will be cancelled.

5. Have you tried talking to a non agent tax helpline recently? - If I was dying (or looking after someone who was), I am sure that there is better music to listen to before my patience runs out.

6. The phrase "just doing my job" isn't very reassuring. I'm sure I've seen it somewhere else.

Leon..i agree...

justsotax | | Permalink

so like I say why bother even trying to operate a computer to submit the return?

First Tier Tribunal decision

B.R. | | Permalink

So, the First Tier Tribunal has decided that a brain tumour doesn't warrant a claim under reasonable excuse to remove HMRC penalties? Can't say I'm really surprised, having seen some of their past decisions! Still, the good news is that some more taxpayers money can be wasted on applications for re-consideration, decision reviews, appeals and maybe even a High Court challenge - keep a few shillings flowing into the poor barristers coffers. 

It is correct    3 thanks

Mehmet | | Permalink

I begrudgingly agree with this ruling in HMRC favour

 

Authorised by taxpayer

Rat1971 | | Permalink

I doubt very much if HMRC would've spoken to his wife anyway, he has to give his authorisation, unless that doesn't count when it's to do with monies owing to them.....

One word for HMR & C    1 thanks

Roland St Clere... | | Permalink

Scum!

One more thing    1 thanks

Roland St Clere... | | Permalink

Scum is a fitting description of the members of the Tribunal responsible

for this ruling.

What ever happened to compassion , humanity and empathy.

Silence is golden

bobdoney | | Permalink

to justsotax

Now might be a good time to follow this precept.

pippa's picture

sudden serious illness    7 thanks

pippa | | Permalink

Last year near the end of April I was diagnosed with cancer - it was totally shocking and debilitating as I had absolutely no idea and didn't feel in the least bit poorly beforehand. 

I managed to get my VAT return done before the deadline (totally on autopilot and hiding from the diagnosis) but paid the wrong amount from the return (the input tax amount- a few quid less than the actual amount).  Had the hard letter saying I was in breach dah di dah (payment now by DD)

So I can totally understand how the payment part was missed - the hurdle always seems to be the filing not the payment and, until it happens to you, you honestly have absolutely no idea how dreadful it is.  And mine wasn't (hopefully isn't) terminal.

Like others I am disgusted by the HMRC taking this line.

Pippa

Waste of Taxpayers Money    3 thanks

Ian McTernan CTA | | Permalink

This could all have been solved by a human being looking at the circumstances and giving some help rather than jumping on a family in their time of need.

The problem is half the system is now automated so penalties will be issued, then it is a question of dealing with an uncaring call centre, then the next step is Tribunal.  It should never have got this far.  When the appeal was listed, a human needs to get involved and take a decision based on all the facts, and consider how much it will cost to take the case compared to the yield in penalties, as well as looking at circumstances.

If there was a decent review system, the penalty would have been quietly dropped before it got this far.

Can't fault the Tribunal, they are only doing their job with two hands tied behind their backs.

Perhaps HMRC can look at the case and learn some lessons from it for the future.

I can't believe some of the comments on here    10 thanks

7555775 | | Permalink

I had cancer and survived. Until your consultant tells you that it will never come back it hangs over you all the time. Everything you do or see reminds you that you have cancer and everything becomes pointless, there is no future, your life as you knew it is over, the man had a brain tumour for goodness sake! until you get cancer yourself you have no idea what it is like, I can' t comprehend what this man must have gone through and then for this to happen is an absolute disgrace.

pippa's picture

the man had a brain tumour for goodness sake    4 thanks

pippa | | Permalink

Completely agree!

Calm Down

TMR | | Permalink

If you go swimming with sharks (whether you have a terminal illness or not) you're liable to get bitten. So it is with HMRC .

Hands up anyone who thinks HMRC are a compassionate organisation?  A shark isn't and I am afraid the similarities don't stop there..

HMRC has changed over the last ten years in to a manifestly grotesque organisation with an appetite to hunt......... and.................. kill. 

Wait for time when they say the penalty isn't off settable against his estate and try to claim IHT on it!  Would that surprise anyone?  Not me!

I feel for this guy as I do for 7555775, but this isn't a compassionate world in which we live, if it was most if not all MP's would all resign tomorrow (as would their underlings at HMRC) for failing mankind!

 

 

HMRC are more aggressive now in pusuing outstanding tax

blueskies | | Permalink

I seem to recall that within the last few of years the Govt announced tha,t due to the adverse economic situation, HMRC would be more sympathetic to taxpayers with tax arrears and tax issues.  The implication seemed to be that time to pay arrangements would be agreed over a longer payment term than previously.  I never heard an announcement from them stopping that policy; but it clearly has.

As an accountant in practice I can confirm that I never talked to anyone at HMRC who agreed that this had been said and to get better terms than 1 year was possible, but a struggle, and extended terms were won begrudgingly (and before anyone replies saying that I was too bolshy / unprofessional etc - far from it).

It therefore comes as no surprise that HMRC won (given the law and HMRC's aggressive nature towards cash collection)  and I agree with previous writers that my agreement is also begrudged. 

It was also mentioned that the taxpayer may have tried and tried before the tax due date to get through to HMRC with no success.  Again totally possible.  We all have experience of poor call pickup and lengthy wait times.  But one cannot assume that this taxpayer did attempt to do this; I would have thought it would have been raised at the tribunal (either by the taxpayer or the tribunal chair).  We have to assume that it did not happen.

Perhaps what should happen is that this case should be picked up by one of the brain tumour support charities and funded to the Upper Tribunal?  Then you would have a legal precedent; and also the situation that those who are not living with a brain tumour might gain some understanding of the issues being faced by those who are.

 

 

What beggars belief ...    6 thanks

dwgw | | Permalink

... is that somebody at HMRC decided it was worth using up some of what little remained of this man's life in pursuing £300 of penalties.  Not only does that show a monstrous lack of empathy and compassion, it's also a ludicrous waste of public servants' time and taxpayers' money.

I have no patience with those so bloodlessly supporting the "only doing their jobs" line of argument.  Perhaps the junior officers were, but proper management is also about exercising discretion, not hiding behind procedure, and that seems to have been woefully lacking in this case.      

If I were in charge of HMRC I'd be ashamed of this decision and I'd be asking some very hard questions of those in the management line that allowed things to go so far.

Lamentable. 

THe law says...    3 thanks

David Gordon FCCA | | Permalink

 

 Be quite clear about this.

 It still remains a fact in revenue regulation, that HMRC may arrive at an equitable settlement with any taxpayer. It is correct that the rules regarding such settlement have recently changed. Nevertheless it remains a fact that HMRC may, in plain English, "Do a deal" with anyone.

 This decision was therefore a personal decision by one or more HMRC officers looking to gain brownie points with their immediate bosses.

  If the report is correct in substance, they should be ashamed of themselves.One does wonder if anyone of authority within HMRC reads AccountingWeb.

 As regards the Tribunal: The tribunal stands as a court of law.

This means, if any claimant brings a financial claim which is good in law, however morally outrageous, the court must support the claimant. It is not for the court to make moral judgments especially in matters of tax. (Vide Greene King et al )

This is therefore entirely down to the ethos of the leadership of HMRC. As with local councils and parking charges/ penalties, HMRC has discovered that penalties are a jolly good way to increase revenue, well beyond the necessity of deterring miscreants.It does appear that so far as Gov't functionaries and HMRC are concerned, in tax matters moral indignation is a one-way street.

 

Sharks?    2 thanks

blueskies | | Permalink

TMR as any diver will tell you, sharks are not bad. More people are killed by cows each year than are killed by sharks.  Not going off topic and don't want to detract from a serious subject. 

And could you guarantee....

kenatnam | | Permalink

that a brain tumour would not affect your ability to think or reason?

It is so easy to state that if he could fill in the return he could have paid, but who amongst us is familiar with the effects of a brain tumour? Perhaps the part of the brain that "fills in forms" was not affected, but the part that "deals with money" was? Is everybody even aware that different parts of the brain deal with different things, so just because you can complete one simple task it doesn't mean that you can complete another simple (but different type of) task

Compassion & understanding, and a willingness to learn about mental health is what's needed - not blind application of rules.

lost billions

SJH-ADVDIPMA | | Permalink

How many millions of the adult population is not on paye, and how many of them are not paying any tax, just totally silent with HMRC? Prize for the best estimate.

peterlashmar's picture

Whilst having every sympathy    3 thanks

peterlashmar | | Permalink

Whilst having every sympathy with Mr. roper I feel that he is overdoing the terminal illness bit a as he is here 3 years later.

 

On that basis we could all claim to have a terminal illness.

 

BUT - it seems that he did not pay because he did not have the funds due to not being able to work which is a very different situation.

It is important to always get the facts right before a Tribunal.

BlueSkies

TMR | | Permalink

Right, not all sharks are bad and not all cows shit all over the place. Maybe the offices of HMRC just have an infinity to attract both. When there's a smell in the air there's something lurking none of us like, apart those that wallow in it. The law isn't fair nor compassionate, that's where mankind fails and a few hide behind "this is the law". Crap - compassion should come first! It does for millions of migrants but not so for maimed soldiers, but I agree, I to am maybe taking things far beyond this forum, for which I apologise.  

if he hasn't    3 thanks

justsotax | | Permalink

got any money then why appeal - HMRC will never collect what he hasn't got (pause for the  revelation that he owns a fleet of cars and lives in mansion but has no 'real' cash).

The HMRC screw people in    1 thanks

vitali2712 | | Permalink

The HMRC screw people in death, so it comes as no surprise that they would do the same whilst barely clinging on to life.

HMRC need serious lessons in empathy, a trait they lack above all else..in between incompetence and the ability to waste money.

Peterlashmar    10 thanks

TMR | | Permalink

Now you've gone too far! How arrogant to say if you're here 3 years later you are overdoing the terminal illness bit!

For six years I watched someone very close fade away. Always given 6 months to live!¬

How dare you suggest such a fact.

You have absolutely no rights to make such a judgement and you should be ashamed of such a comment!

HMRC make their own problems

hedleyg | | Permalink

Every year, as a pensioner with rental income, I fill out my paper SAE in April or May as soon as my primary P60 is received. The Revenue write back with the amount of tax owing (to be paid around Xmas time). They send out a payment slip towards the end of the year.

If they sent a payment slip with the assessment letter, it would be paid immediately - I would never attempt to pay the tax without the correct reference number. There is no point in waiting until the end of the year with the artificially low  savings rates now on offer.

This unfortunate taxpayer probably did not have a payment slip lying around for his wife to discover and pay.

 

HMRC had their own internal guidance.....    2 thanks

Jekyll and Hyde | | Permalink

.... So I am assuming that the staff at HMRC either decided not to follow it or decided to follow it and made active decisions not to reduce the penalties under special circumstances.

Yes, reading the case on my laptop now and not on a smartphone is easier and yes he did get a tax refund for 2012/13 (why HMRC paid this is beyond my belief!) and yes he had previously been behind on previous tax years.

BUT as I have said previously, I am looking at the current and not historical considerations. If the tribunal have not been given the full facts and the repesentation is not appropriate then perhaps this needs to change and cases be adjourned to a later date.

Is terminal illness a foreseen or unforeseen condition? I would say unforeseen. 

Did he have the means to pay before this illness? That is a question we do not know, but on the basis that tax is due then I suspect the answer is yes.

Does he have the means to pay after this illness? If his business has gone (if it was a business and not a non-employed worker position) and he is on benefits, then I suspect that the answer is no.

Should HMRC have repaid 2012/13 tax. Most certainly no and this has added to the issue for tribunal. Why did they pay and not offset? Possibly because a tick in the box on the tax return asking for a repayment. Doesn't mean they have to pay.

Did HMRC staff read and enact SAM61310? ie. did they at all think, is there a reasonable excuse? Did they take particular care (note 2). Did they pass this on to TAA. Ie did they consider that a special dededion may be appliciable CH17500?

 

CH170800 - Special reduction: When special circumstances may exist

We can only make a special reduction where there are special circumstances, seeCH170600. You must not give a special reduction without authority from TAA to do so, see CH175000.

This page provides examples to help to illustrate when special circumstances might exist. However, the examples are not an exhaustive list and the precise facts of individual cases will be critical in deciding whether similar circumstances are special circumstances.

CH170600 explains that special circumstances are either

  • uncommon or exceptional, or
  • where the strict application of the penalty law produces a result that is contrary to the clear compliance intention of that penalty law.

so for me HMRC staff need to do their jobs, and yes I may be classed as a hyprocite by some, but HMRC staff could have chosen to apply their knowledge and come to a different conclusion, but chose not. 

Yes, I feel that the large corporates and rich are treated more favouribly then the rest of us and yes I will contest that I blame HMRC staff for doing deals with that sector. The reason is that they choice to do deals with one sector and not all and it is always that one sector. 

But I am not a hyprocite when I say HMRC should look at case specifics and they should penalise those that can and chose not to, but not those that can't. It is all part of the same legislation that HMRC choice to apply in some and not others. In this case I feel that those that can and don't should have the book thrown at them. Those that cannot, should never have the book thrown at them. That is my principle why I can see a difference with how HMRC should have dealt with this case and how they should deal with the large corporate's and the rich which can and often choose not to.

I will also put another argument accross which I consider relevant. IF, this chap is on benefits and IF this chap had no means to pay the tax, then IF he is able to pay the tax out of benefits then benefits is too high. I do not believe that is the case, but which is what some others seem to want to argue as he chose to file the returns and not to pay.

I do hope that some sector groups take this challenge up, including those that represent low earning groups and disabled groups.

 

 

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