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InDisputes Series: Amending a Tax Appeal – Recent High Court Clarity

In the recent case of Express Motor Assessors Limited (In Liquidation) v Revenue Commissioners the High Court (the “Court”) clarified the process for amending appeals against determinations of the Tax Appeals Commission (“TAC”).  Appeals against determinations of TAC are brought by way of case stated on a point of law to the Court.

Amending a Tax Appeal

The Court confirmed that it has jurisdiction to amend a case stated appeal and, where appropriate, to add additional points of law to the appeal without remitting the matter to the TAC for further consideration.  In order to do so, the Court must be satisfied that the case stated contains sufficient findings of fact to enable the Court to determine the additional point of law.  Where the case stated does not contain sufficient findings of fact, the case stated should be remitted to the TAC for amendment before coming back to the Court on appeal.

Jurisdiction and Procedural Propriety in Tax Appeals

The Court helpfully clarified general points in relation to jurisdiction and procedural propriety in tax appeals including:

  • finding that the arguments submitted by the Liquidator to TAC as to the unlawfulness of the Revenue audit were not within the jurisdiction of TAC or of the Court on this case stated and could only have been made by judicial review (the Liquidator argued that Revenue should not have communicated directly with the Directors of the company as they no longer had the power to represent the company following the liquidation) applying the recent Court of Appeal decision in Lee v Revenue Commissioners;
  • the Court affirmed that TAC was bound by the principles of constitutional and natural justice;
  • a party wishing to challenge the contents of a case stated by TAC should apply to the Court to amend the case stated as part of the appeal proceedings and should not issue full separate judicial review proceedings of the case stated;
  • the Court has discretion to refuse to amend (or remit for amendment) a case stated where the proposed amendment would be frivolous (ie, where the issues have already been determined by another court, where no question of law arises, or where remitting the case stated to TAC would amount to “a pointless waste of time”);
  • TAC does have jurisdiction to rule on the admissibility of evidence in a particular dispute, notwithstanding that TAC can admit evidence that would not be admissible in court proceedings;
  • the Court noted that, as a general proposition, any case stated from TAC should be disposed of by the Court as efficiently as possible; and
  • the Court indicated that minor amendments to a case stated appeal could be dealt with at any stage in the proceedings, whereas more substantial amendments should be dealt with as early as possible in the appeal by way of an interim court application.

Advice for Clients

This case highlights the procedural flexibility that exists in the case stated tax appeal process to ensure that tax appeals are determined as efficiently as possible.