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Published on 28/04/2020

A Financial Times article on the 28th April 2020 reports on Tax tribunals struggling to cope with remote hearings. The backlog of disputes reached 27,280 last quarter according to a Freedom of Information request. HMRC charges daily interest of 2.6% on money it argues is due and this will continue to apply during the pause in hearings.

 

Lawyers have warned that the suspension of UK tax tribunal cases during the pandemic has caused businesses to fail and prolonged uncertainty for many taxpayers. The FT article explains that Hearings at the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) and Upper Tribunal were postponed on March 24 unless proceedings could be held remotely, with the measures last week extended in the FTT until June 30. Legal experts told the Financial Times that the FTT was under resourced and there are problems because the First Tier Tribunal is not geared up to hear cases which involve numerous witnesses that need to dial in.

In normal times, it would take around a year for a case to be heard at tribunal, experts said, but the delay to physical hearings because of the social distancing measures will extend this. All kinds of contentious cases are now on hold — including individuals such as TV presenters in dispute about their payment arrangements through companies. The FTT is attempting to deal with as many cases as possible on paper. Remote hearings are taking place via phone or video link, only when both parties and the judge agree that this is appropriate.

A government spokesperson said it was “important that the tax system continues to function so it can fund vital public services like the NHS but HMRC will deal sympathetically with taxpayers who cannot meet their tax obligations on time, or appeal or review HMRC decisions within the usual time limits”. A spokesperson for the HM Courts and Tribunals Service said some appeals had been suspended in line with health guidance, but the tax tribunal continued to hear others remotely.

 

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Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.

 

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