Overview of the Tax Tribunals system by Michelle Sloane and Alexis Armitage

Michelle Sloane and Alexis Armitage provide an overview of the tax tribunals system.

The legislative basis for the system of tax appeals in the UK for both direct and indirect taxes is found in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (TCEA). Part I of TCEA provides for a unified tribunal system with two tiers, which for tax appeals are the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (FTT) and the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery Chamber) (UT).

The FTT is a fact-finding tribunal which makes a decision by applying the relevant law to the facts of the case as found. The UT has jurisdiction to reconsider on appeal a decision of the FTT on a point of law only. Although an appeal on a point of law may involve issues of fact a decision of the FTT may be overturned by the UT where “the facts found are such that no person acting judicially and properly instructed as to the relevant law could have come to the determination under appeal” (see Edwards (HM Inspector of Taxes) v Bairstow and Harrison (1954) 36 TC 207).

Both the FTT and the UT have extensive case management powers to regulate the conduct or disposal of proceedings which can be exercised on the tribunals’ own initiative or on application by either party to the proceedings. The rules in relation to the FTT are found in the Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Tax Chamber) Rules 2009 (the FTT Rules). The rules relating to the UT are found in the Tribunal Procedure (Upper Tribunal) Rules 2008 (the UT Rules). In the exercise of its powers the FTT and UT must have regard to the ‘overriding objective’, which is to deal with a case “fairly and justly” (see Rule 2 of the FTT Rules and the UT Rules).

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