Dispute Resolution

 Trouble with the taxman?

  1. Do you have a live HMRC enquiry?
  2. Have you received a decision from HMRC that you wish to challenge?
  3. Have you received a VAT assessment?
  4. Do you need to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT)?
  5. Do you have an appeal listed for a hearing?

In all of the above cases, it may be better to seek HMRC’s agreement to resolve matters through mediation, also known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Although this may of course be an apocryphal story, the possibility that there may be up to 35 years worth of court time tied up in appeals to the FTT, gives an idea of the scale of the problem. Litigation is expensive, time consuming, unpredictable, lengthy and in the end impossible to control. Even if you win at FTT, HMRC can appeal to a higher court. Litigation can of course be necessary if you fundamentally disagree with HMRC on a point of principle, but in a large number of cases ADR can be a better way to resolve matters.

So, what is ADR?

ADR provides a means of calling for a time out on a protracted dispute and for both sides to ask for the intervention of a trained mediator. An ADR is off the record (without prejudice), which means that anything said between the parties cannot be used in any subsequent litigation if an agreement isn’t possible.

It can take up to two years for a case to reach the FTT, whereas the ADR process can typically be resolved in under 6 months. It’s also considerably cheaper than formal litigation.
For ADR to succeed, it must be in compliance with HMRC’s litigation and settlement strategy (LSS). In simple terms, HMRC must be willing to settle with the taxpayer on the same terms they would offer to anyone else in the same situation. ADR is therefore far more likely to succeed if HMRC do not fully appreciate the facts surrounding the transactions entered into by the business – So, what is being supplied, who you are selling to, how you are selling, how you are paid etc, or where there is a range of possible outcomes – ie not a binary yes/no matter.

Jonathan qualified as an accredited mediator with the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in January 2016. Recent examples of disputes that he has resolved include:

  1. A multi-layered dispute on behalf of a leading UK insurer;
  2. An industry wide challenge to the recovery of tax following the submission of dozens of claims to HMRC;
  3. The recovery of a substantial sum on behalf of a life and pensions business;
  4. The withdrawal of several very substantial assessments issued against a leading betting and gaming business;
  5. The settlement of an assessment for landfill tax that threatened the continued viability of the business;
  6. The withdrawal of several hundred assessments against franchisees operating the flat-rate VAT scheme.

All of the above settlements were dependent on building a detailed understanding of the appropriate strategy for a successful outcome, whether through informal discussion, ADR, appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal or judicial review.

How can we help?

When HMRC enquiries, VAT assessments and appeals rear their heads, you can rest secure in the knowledge that your business is in the hands of the experts.

Please get in touch by phone or email and we’d be delighted to discuss how we can help.