Thursday, April 10, 2008

HMRC have issued a discovery assessment. Let's appeal. Hmm.

I'm a simple soul. I adopt a pragmatic approach to tax. Perhaps it's one of the reasons why I don't give tax advice myself any more. (There are plenty of advisers in the Network who can do that very well).

A few years back I was part of a delegation of accountancy and tax professionals who went to see HMRC to find a pragmatic solution to the consequences of the Court of Appeal decision in the 'Langham v Veltema' case. The case and subsequent guidance set the future ground rules for the issue of Discovery assessments by HMRC.

I've just read a report of a more recent case re Household Estate Agents. HMRC issued a discovery assessment. The taxpayer appealed and the Commissioners found in their favour. Hooray?

Guess what? HMRC appealed against the Commissioners' decision and won. This is not unusual when the taxpayer represents themself or has an inexperienced advocate before the Commissioners.

I cannot stress enough how critical it is to anticipate what will happen if HMRC lose when you take a case to the Commissioners. The taxpayer never gets a second chance to introduce new evidence. If you go the Commissioners and you are prepared to fight on (win or lose) you must be fully prepared before the Commissioners' hearing. This generally requires specialist expertise. Not simply from someone who has been to the Commissioners before but from someone who really understands what happens thereafter.

I'm a simple soul. I know I don't have the requiste expertise. But I know where I'd turn if I was in that situation. (Another example of how the Tax Advice Network could be useful!)

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