VAT online filing challenge mounted

Published on 9 December 2010

LITRG is supporting appeals mounted by several individuals, who would otherwise have been unrepresented, against the requirement that VAT returns must be filed online. The first tribunal hearing took place at the First-tier Tribunal in London on Monday 29 November. Ms Anne Redston of Temple Tax Chambers was the barrister acting for these appellants, instructed by solicitor and LITRG volunteer Ms Eile Gibson of Tower Bridge Tax Practice.

Both were acting pro bono and will continue to do so for the forthcoming appeal. The purpose of the hearing was for the Tribunal to make directions as to the future conduct of the appeals. The purpose of the hearing was for the Tribunal to make directions as to the future conduct of the appeals.

At the hearing, three cases were selected to go forward to a full hearing in Wolverhampton in the spring of 2011. The remaining appeals will be stayed until after the decision in the three ‘lead’ cases. Other appellants should then be in a better position to decide whether to accept the decision in the lead cases, or to continue with their appeals.

LITRG view

There are many reasons why people may find the online filing requirement difficult, even impossible. For example, some people have a disability that impedes their using computers. A great many UK citizens have no internet access; a large proportion of them live in areas where broadband access is either unavailable or unreliable. Older people in particular may find new technology impossible to learn, and businesses with low margins may not be able to afford the cost of the necessary hardware and online access. The regulations excuse people with religious objections from online filing – surely this exemption should also apply to other taxpayers who have principled objections of a secular nature.

In short, requiring citizens to fulfil their statutory obligations in this one way alone with no alternative for paper filing is in our view at best disproportionate, at worst a breach of their human rights. We would hope that HMRC will see reason and provide flexible alternatives to online filing including paper filing for certain taxpayers, which we believe can be done and is relatively easy to organise.

(09-12-2010)

Contact: Robin Williamson (please use form at http://www.litrg.org.uk/ContactUs )