QC fails to get £1.2m tax penalties suspended

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Upper tribunal judge Colin Bishopp has declined to suspend £1.2m in tax penalties in relation to Romie Tager QC.

Back in 2015 Bishopp ordered the barrister to pay a penalty of more than £1.2m for failing to comply with information notices about the inheritance tax on his father's estate and his own income tax affairs.

The judge has since granted Tager permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, however Tager also asked that the penalties be suspended until his appeal has been determined.

Judge Bishopp explained that the decision of the tribunal does not by itself trigger an obligation on the person concerned to pay the penalty, but that HMRC must first notify the person and that once the notification has been issued, a 30-day period for payment starts.

HMRC argued that suspension of any decision pending appeal was the exception rather than the rule, and that if the penalty is suspended Tager would gain an advantage since interest will not run. The tax department added that Tager had put forward nothing to suggest that he was unable to pay the penalties, or that he would suffer hardship if required.

The judge agreed: “It is true that the penalties are large but it has been part of Mr Tager’s own case that he has ample means and I have been given no reason to think that he will not be able to find the money with reasonable ease.”

The income tax due in the case has now been agreed at a sum less than the amount the judge assumed when determining the relevant penalty, although he added that he did not accept the argument that the potential inheritance tax liability had been substantially over-estimated.

“However, although para 50 describes a penalty within its scope as a “tax-related penalty”, and in the particular circumstances of this case a considerable amount of attention has been devoted to the scale of the tax, the amount of tax at risk (to repeat my own shorthand) is not the only consideration—it is no more than a matter to which the tribunal must have regard—and I do not accept, as the application implies, that it is certain the Court of Appeal will reduce the penalties,” he said.

Judge Bishopp declined to suspend the effect of his decision based on the following reasons:

“It would, in my view, be contrary to the general rule, and contrary to the interests of justice, for Mr Tager to be able to defer the payment of any sum; and I am not persuaded that any significant prejudice or injustice will be caused to him if he is required to pay the whole of the amounts on which I determined.”

Tager's father, Osias Tager, passed away in 2005 without making a will, but an assessment of the size of his estate was not given to HMRC until four years later. The Revenue disputed this and after demanding further information took the QC to tribunal in 2014.

In the 2015 ruling the judge said it was difficult to understand why Tager had not entrusted his tax affairs to an accountant or tax adviser.

About Robert Lovell

Business and finance journalist

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