Barrister wins VAT efiling appeal
A £100 penalty issued by the HMRC for failing to submit an online VAT return has been overturned by a self-employed barrister, on the grounds that an earlier requirement to read HMRC terms and conditions relevant to online filing procedures was unlawful.
The barrister had no protestation to submitting the online VAT return, but did object to needing to tick a box when signing up on the government gateway, confirming that he had read the terms and conditions for filing online.
After submitting paper VAT returns in 2012 and 2013, the barrister was given a £100 penalty from HMRC for failing to submit an online return for the March 2013 quarter.
The barrister, Neil Garrod, objected to the quantity of the terms and conditions. The judge acknowledged that the terms were 12 A4 pages long and were set in fairly close print and also raised concerns imposed on taxpayers such as, having to regularly check their mailbox, hosted on the HMRC website which the department uses to communicate with taxpayers.
However, the HMRC argued that taxpayers only need to confirm that they have read the terms and conditions, they do not need to agree to them. They also stated that they were only confirming details within primary and secondary legislation.
The First-tier Tribunal chairman of the case disagreed with the HMRC stating that the terms and conditions were beyond the recital of law and concluded that the HMRC had no power to impose it. Therefore, she considered imposing the tick box pre-condition was unlawful and as this was the cause of Mr. Garrod’s failure to file online, the penalty was also not lawfully imposed. This resulted in the First-tier Tribunal chairman concluding that Mr. Garrod had a reasonable excuse for not submitting his VAT return online and that the penalty is invalid.
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