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MoJ advocates HMRC tribunal fees

21st Aug 2015
Tax Writer Taxwriter Ltd
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Access to tax justice is set to become a less affordable for ordinary taxpayers if the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) gets its way and imposes fees for taking cases to the tax tribunals.

The MoJ is currently consulting on introducing fees for tribunals which don’t currently charge fees. These include the first tier and upper tier tax tribunals. This is part of a package of measures to recoup up to 26% of the operating costs of those tribunals.

The fees would have to be paid up-front by the appellant and are not related to the length of time the hearing may take or the amount of tax or penalty at stake.

For example, a case allocated to the basic category, the taxpayer would pay £50 to have the case registered, then another £200 for it to proceed to a hearing. Taking an appeal to the upper tribunal would cost £2,100 before any professional costs are incurred.

Up to two thirds of taxpayers who take a case to the first tier tribunal are not represented by an agent (per cases heard in 2013/14), perhaps because they can’t afford to pay a professional to help with the case. It is those cost-sensitive taxpayers who would be hardest hit by the new court fees, and may be dissuaded from attempting to argue their point of principle in front of the tribunal.

The MoJ consultation suggests there will be a scheme under which low-income taxpayers or those with limited capital will be able to have the court fees remitted. However, it is unclear how that would work in practice.

Nick Skerrett, head of contentious tax at Simmons & Simmons says it is not unreasonable to charge fees for taking a case to the tax tribunal but there should be a scaling of the court fees as applies in the High Court. For example, a lower level of fee should apply where small amounts of tax or penalties are disputed and higher fees where large sums of tax are at stake.

However Nick asks, “Is the tax tribunal the right forum to hear reasonable excuses for penalties imposed for late submitted returns or late paid tax?” Nick suggests there should be a truly independent panel which could hear the reasonable excuse appeals and avoid burdening the tribunal.

Currently the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service is not truly independent of HMRC as the mediators are drawn from the ranks of HMRC staff. Also ADR can’t be used to sort out penalty issues.        

At a time when the tax tribunals have a back-log of 29,566 cases waiting to be heard (as at December 2014), it is clear that system of tax hearings could benefit from reform. Nick Skerrett is clear that change is needed, and that should involve a rethink of how the whole range of tax disputes are dealt with, not just seeking to recover costs through court fees.     


Replies (6)

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By Francois Badenhorst
20th Aug 2015 10:36

Table of costs

Upper Tier Tax Chamber

  proposed fees

Case Type



Permission to appeal






First Tier Tax Chamber

Proposed fees

Case Type:



Paper (no hearing)


£ -










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By taxguru
20th Aug 2015 11:41

This makes sense as everybody seems to be taking every disagreement to the FTT, regardless of whether or not there is any merit in appealing at all. Look at the FTT decisions - HMRC win most of them; simply because many cases do not deserve to be taken to the FTT level. But then HMRC are also capable of chasing it up to the FTT for a £100 fine.

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By mwngiol
20th Aug 2015 15:26

Case by case

Should be decided on a case by case basis. If the case tribunal decides that a case shouldn't have been taken that far, then impose the fee. However if the tribunal decides that the case has merit, even if unsuccessful, fee should be waived.

Should deter the silly cases and would avoid being a kind of "justice tax" which surely can't be right.

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By mikefleming3028
20th Aug 2015 16:27

Ministry of Injustice

This is the thin end of the wedge, a slippery slope, an accident waiting to happen and this proposed change should be resisted with every fibre of our professional being.

Speaking as one who spent 19 years with HMRC and attended Commissioners meetings more times than I can remember I was happy to see the introduction of the new Tribunal system which brought a new professional approach to the whole issue of appeals. I remember expressing my concerns at the time over this very issue ie who was going to pay for this new approach and we were assured  that  this new system would still be free at the point of access and would also establish a more level playing ground on the whole subject of appeal decisions given that Tribunal chairmen would be trained lawyers. Now we are told that the system has to recoup 26% of its cost and the proposals are to levy a charge  on making an appeal with further charges being made depending  on the level of "complication".   HMRC must be laughing all the way to their  bank as not only will this generate a new revenue stream for them but it will also lighten their load significantly by virtue of a reduction in the number of those pesky appeals that are the bane of their life. The tax payer / customer is short changed yet again his rights sacrificed on the altar of Mammon. 

Why don't HMRC stop faffing about and issue a new SA return that askes only one question and makes two demands ie How much do you earn? Send it to me and don't whine..    

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By the_Poacher
21st Aug 2015 22:24

.... Like the Ritz hotel
Welcome to Tory Britain

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By Michael C Feltham
23rd Aug 2015 21:58

Access to Justice?

What a bloody larf!

Lord Woolf's reforms (q.v.) were intended to promote the clear concept of justice for ALL no matter how impoverished.

Since that time; (It didn't actually happen, BTW!):

1.  Recently court plaint fees (claim fees) have risen astronomically:

2.  Legal Aid has been basically emasculated:

3.  HMRC et al, have been given powers which are, in terms of British Constitution and jurisprudence, both ultra vires and, indeed, anarchic:

4.  The old tried and tested system of General Commissioner's Hearings, where lay people exercised honest conclusions were abandoned in favour of professional adversarial LTC and UTC tribunals which the average honest man cannot afford:

4.  And now this...................

Welcome back to the nouveau era of the Robber Barons!

And peasants.

Revolt, anyone?




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