In J Clark v CRC (2015) TC04509, the First Tier Tribunal allowed an appeal against HMRC’s refusal to grant Special relief to a tax payer in relation to years where he had not submitted returns: it would unconscionable to collect the tax due.


Mr Clark worked on a self-employed basis for 2002/03 and 2003/04 before ceasing for several years. He had filed a form CWF1 to register as such, but did not complete any tax returns. HMRC issued determinations for these and four further years, which at the time of the hearing totalled some £17,780. The time limit to displace the determinations had long since passed. He made a claim to special relief; however this was denied by HMRC on the grounds that it would not be unconscionable to collect the amount, and so condition A of TMA 1970 Sch 1AB Para 3A was not satisfied.


Mr Clark appealed the decision, stating that it would be unconscionable to continue with collection in his particular circumstances. These included:

  • The fact that he is dyslexic and has great difficulty reading and writing, and HMRC had been made aware of this.
  • He has severe learning difficulties and according to a Psychologist report has the mental capacity equivalent to a 12 year old child.
  • He relied on assistance from his wife when registering for self-employment, and she also assisted with paperwork. They split up in 2003 and so he lost this assistance. He also took over sole care of their daughter at this time.
  • His property had suffered severe damage in 2006, leaving him unable to live there for a substantial time and destroying a lot of his correspondence and records.
  • He had written to HMRC seeking to bring matters up to date and explain his circumstances, but had the letter returned with ‘sent to wrong department’ marked on it.
  • He visited a HMRC office three times, and was not given assistance he clearly needed, for example a member of staff refused to fill out a form for him, instead spelling words for him.
  • He had brought his affairs up to date with assistance from an accountant, and no tax would have been due for the periods were returns made on time.


The tribunal allowed the appeal. Citing the decision in Donald Fitzroy Currie v HMRC [2014] TC 03997 which stated that unconscionable meant “not in accordance with what is right or reasonable … unreasonably excessive  … grossly unfair, especially to a weaker party … acting without regard for what is right.”, it found that HMRC’s responses to correspondence were not satisfactory given the particular needs of the individual.

Links: J Clark v CRC (2015) TC04509