HMRC’s appeal against debarring order dismissed


Re: BPP Holdings Ltd & Ors v Commissioners for HMRC [2017] UKSC 55

On appeal from [2016] EWCA Civ 121

This appeal considered whether the Tax Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal erred in imposing an order debarring HMRC from participating in an appeal following HMRC’s failure to comply with the Tribunal’s directions. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal. The Court stated that it would only have been appropriate for the Court of Appeal to interfere with the tribunal’s judgment if irrelevant material was taken into account, relevant material was ignored or the decision was one which no reasonable tribunal could have reached. It was acknowledged that the Civil Procedure Rules did not apply directly to the tribunals. The consideration of the rules was limited to whether the guidance was relevant by analogy to the application of the overriding objective in the Tax Tribunal rules and thus the judge had not misunderstood the correct guidance. The Court acknowledged the disadvantage to HMRC due to the debarring order as well as the arguably disproportionate benefit to BPP. It was a tough decision and not all judges may have made it however, the extent of the failure to respond to BPP’s request, including the length of delay to the proceedings and the absence of compensation for the delay, meant that the decision was not unjustifiable.

Jessica Simor QC and Nicholas Gibson were involved in this case.