In the recent case of Glynn & Ors v The Revenue Commissioners, the High Court clarified when transcripts of Tax Appeal Commission (“TAC”) hearings can be admissible as evidence when appealing the resulting TAC decision. In doing so, the Court highlighted the importance of legal accuracy in the substantive and procedural aspects of tax appeals.
In this appeal, Revenue sought to have the hearing transcript admitted in order to challenge a finding of fact made by the TAC in relation to the purpose for which the relevant tax deductible payments were made in the circumstances.
Admissibility of the Transcript
The Court examined Revenue’s request for the inclusion of the transcript, focusing on whether the transcript was necessary to the Court’s adjudication of the ‘points of law’ being appealed.
In particular, the Court highlighted the following important points:
- There is flexibility to include the transcript in TAC’s appeal document (ie, the case stated) in circumstances where it is “necessary and appropriate to do so.”
- However, appending the transcript to the case stated is not a substitute to clearly identifying the facts relevant to the appeal in the case stated.
- The Court noted that where the appeal involved an allegation that TAC had erred on a point of law by making its decision based on findings of fact that lacked evidential basis, then including the transcript would be appropriate.
- The Court emphasised that the burden of proving the lack of evidential basis in the circumstances is on the appellant.
- The Court also emphasised that although TAC was responsible for drafting the terms of the appeal to the Court, the onus is on the appellant to identify the relevant ‘points of law’ which it wanted to appeal.
Having reviewed the ‘points of law’ detailed in the appeal document, the Court concluded that Revenue had failed to clearly identity the legal error it wanted to appeal and, consequently, refused Revenue’s request to include the transcript.
The Importance of ‘Correct Practice’
The Court criticised Revenue for raising the admissibility of the TAC transcript just before the matter was due for hearing, noting that the issue should have been addressed at an earlier stage in the proceedings.
Although the Court ultimately agreed to consider the issue, noting that the taxpayer had no objections, the Court’s comments in this context once more demonstrate the importance of proper procedural practices in tax appeals.
Advice for Clients
This decision highlights the importance of legal clarity and precision in tax appeals. In particular, Revenue’s failure to clearly specify the legal errors underpinning its appeal resulted in the rejection of its application to admit the TAC transcript. In addition, the Court’s criticism of Revenue’s timing in raising this evidential point is also noteworthy.
As such, taxpayers should ensure that all relevant legal points are accurately detailed in appeal documents and that any preliminary points are raised as early as possible in proceedings.