HMRC tribunal fees could create new barriers to justice

23rd September 2015

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIoT) has warned Ministry of Justice proposals to introduce fees for taxpayers wishing to take HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tribunal could potentially impede access to justice.

The ministry has mooted fees of between £50 and £200 for taxpayers wishing to refer their case to the first-tier tribunal, with hearing fees proposed from £200 to £1,000 respectively.

Meanwhile appeals to the upper-tier tribunal are mooted to incur an initial fee of £100 but could cost up to £2,000 for a hearing.

The CIoT believes an obligatory fee for cases to be heard in the first-tier tribunal tax chamber and upper tribunal tax chamber will adversely affect access to justice, and is wrong in principle.

Chris Jones, president, CIoT, believes the measures will increase bureaucracy and complexity, “fail to protect” the most vulnerable taxpayers, and are “contrary to the interests of justice”.

“Access to justice should be free to those who require it,” added Jones.

“Tax tribunal cases are between the citizen and state (and in most cases initiated by HMRC); in this context, it is particularly perverse that in order to fight charges levied by one branch of government, an appellant would be obliged to pay another division of government.

“We understand the rationale behind wishing to discourage frivolous or vexatious cases, or to cover part of the costs of running the tribunal service and we would accept that there is a good case for considering charges targeted at higher-value tribunal disputes.

“However, the effect will be to deter some potential applicants, including many of modest means, and prevent them seeking access to justice when they have a perfectly good case.”

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