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Supreme Court Decision on Tinkler v HMRC

The Supreme Court (Lord Hodge, Lord Briggs, Lady Arden, Lord Burrows, Lady Rose) handed down judgment on Friday 30th July 2021, allowing HMRC’s appeal in relation to whether the Respondent is estopped by convention from denying that HMRC had a valid enquiry when HMRC had sent the notice to the wrong address and the Respondent’s accountants had interacted with HMRC on the basis that an enquiry had been opened.

The appeal arises out of a notice of enquiry sent by HMRC to the Respondent to the wrong address. HMRC subsequently issued a Closure Notice purporting to amend a certain tax return of the Respondent and disallow certain losses claimed. The Respondent disputed this and the question of whether a valid notice of enquiry had been served was heard as a preliminary issue. HMRC contends that its sending of a copy of the notice to the Respondent’s accountants established a mistaken assumption, shared by the parties, that a valid tax enquiry had nevertheless been opened into one of Respondent’s tax returns and the Respondent is therefore prevented by law from denying that there was a valid notice.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal. Lord Burrows gave the lead judgment, with which Lord Hodge, Lady Arden and Lady Rose agreed.  Lord Briggs gave a short concurring judgment explaining why he agreed with the reasoning of Lord Burrows. The Court upheld that Mr Tinkler is estopped from denying that a valid enquiry had been opened into the Return.

Malcolm Gammie QC was instructed for HMRC Solicitors Office (with Michael Jones QC and Nicholas Macklam) for the successful appellant in this appeal.  

A copy of the approved Judgment is available here.