Role of courts in tax disputes under threat, warns Institute President

In a speech this evening CIOT President Anne Fairpo will issue a warning that the balance of power is in danger of tilting too far towards the state at the expense of taxpayer rights. She will argue that if the court system is not working adequately it should be reformed to work better for all who need to use it, rather than simply allowing the tax authorities to sidestep it.

She will say:

“I am concerned about the increasing focus on HMRC enforcement without third party supervision. There is, and can be, no dispute that HMRC needs to enforce tax debts. There’s no dispute that we have a societal infrastructure that needs to be paid for.

“In a perfect world, perhaps HMRC wouldn’t need the courts – but then again, in a perfect world, no-one would need the courts. This is not a perfect world. People make mistakes. HMRC makes mistakes.

“In this imperfect world:
·         direct recovery of debt
·         strict liability for innocent failure to declare overseas income and gains
·         follower notices, with a 50% penalty if you persist with your right to have your case heard in the courts and lose, with an accelerated payment notice also served on you
all undermine the ability of a taxpayer with a genuine dispute to stand up to HMRC.

“‘We’re finding it too difficult to collect via the court system’ isn’t a good enough reason to throw out the protection of the courts for taxpayers. The state inevitably has the balance of power and resources, even if it doesn’t feel like it from an individual civil servant’s end of things!

“There’s undoubtedly problems with enforcing debts – but that’s true for all, not just government. Sidestepping the courts to benefit the state alone is missing the opportunity to reform the court system to enable business to work better in general.”

Note to editors:


1.       Anne Fairpo will make her remarks at the CIOT’s annual President’s Reception, which takes place at London’s V&A Museum this evening.


2.       The Chartered Institute of Taxation

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) is the leading professional body in the United Kingdom concerned solely with taxation. The CIOT is an educational charity, promoting education and study of the administration and practice of taxation. One of our key aims is to work for a better, more efficient, tax system for all affected by it – taxpayers, their advisers and the authorities. The CIOT’s work covers all aspects of taxation, including direct and indirect taxes and duties. Through our Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG), the CIOT has a particular focus on improving the tax system, including tax credits and benefits, for the unrepresented taxpayer.

The CIOT draws on our members’ experience in private practice, commerce and industry, government and academia to improve tax administration and propose and explain how tax policy objectives can most effectively be achieved. We also link to, and draw on, similar leading professional tax bodies in other countries.  The CIOT’s comments and recommendations on tax issues are made in line with our charitable objectives: we are politically neutral in our work.

The CIOT’s 17,000 members have the practising title of ‘Chartered Tax Adviser’ and the designatory letters ‘CTA’, to represent the leading tax qualification.
James Knell
External Relations Officer

+44 (0)20 7340 2702