Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gaines-Cooper case does NOT show futility of HMRC guidance

What it shows is the futility of trying to exploit HMRC general guidance for tax avoidance purposes.

Robert Gaines-Cooper has been challenging HMRC's demands that he pay UK taxes despite his attempts to become non-UK resident in 1976. And I have commented on his continued failure to overturn HMRC's decision in previous blog posts.

Accountancy Age have headlined their latest article on the story: "Gaines-Cooper ruling shows futility of guidance".

I disagree, hence my statement above. As Accountancy Age note towards the end of their article:
Gaines-Cooper left the UK partly to mitigate his tax liabilities; there is £30m at stake; and lest we forget this is a trial that has already lasted six years and looks set to run further. In other words, this is not a run-of-the-mill case. Guidance, on the other hand, is meant for run-of-the-mill cases – the "ordinary sophisticated taxpayer",
And that taxpayers are not not able to rely much on guidance when an action is undertaken in contentious areas because:
it is not in HMRC's interests to provide clear guidance for these cases. Taxpayers and advisors in these situations will have to argue on case law and legislation – a lesson Gaines Cooper has learnt the hard way.
Even this isn't news. It has long been recognised that HMRC guidance, statements of practice and concessions do not have the force of law. They help resolve issues and to provide comfort for most people affected, most of the time. But when tax avoidance plans rely on such non-statutory notices then all bets are off. And no one should be surprised.

Previous relevant posts

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