In Martin Clunes v HMRC [2017] TC05692 the tax tribunal decided that a well known actor did not have any special right to privacy in relation to an application made ahead of a potential tax appeal against the disallowance of cosmetic surgery as deduction from his trading profits.

  • Mr Clunes had a tax dispute with HMRC: they had disallowed the cost of cosmetic surgery as a deduction from his trading profits applying s34 ITTOIA 2005, the 'wholly and exclusively' rule.
  • He wished to appeal HMRC's resultant amendments to his 2012/13 tax return.
  • His accountant applied to the First Tier Tax Tribunal (FTT) for a direction that his client's appeal could be heard in private, thus protecting his client's identity. It was likely that the papers would report the case.

Judge Colin Bishopp, president of the FTT decided that it was not in the public interest for the case to be heard privately, he said:

'The question in the appeal will not be whether male actors, as a group, can legitimately claim relief for expense of the kind in issue, but whether, in Mr Clunes’ case, the expense was incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of his trade. It is entirely possible that expense of the kind in issue here might be incurred by actor A for undeniable qualifying reasons, while the same expense incurred by actor B could be described only as a vain indulgence, and there are plainly many possible positions between those extremes. I do not see how the tribunal will be able to determine where on the scale Mr Clunes falls without reference to him as an individual, and by reference to his personal characteristics; and I do not see how the public interest in the fair administration of tax can be satisfied by the release of a decision which, by concealing those characteristics, makes it impossible for the reader to reach a full understanding of the reasons why the appeal has been determined as it has.'

The judge also made it clear that Mr Clunes' potential s34 appeal was not in relation to a tax avoidance scheme.

The case was contrasted with a similar unsuccessful application made by ex Radio 1 presenter Chris Moyles, who wanted to avoid the publicity of using a tax scheme and the case of Dr Banerjee, a NHS consultant who wanted to avoid publicity due to her job and was also claiming the wholly exclusively rule for work related training.


On the wholly and exclusively point, it remains to be seen what the cosmetic surgery relates to. Every case has to be decided in its individual merits and context.


Wholly and exclusively: update

Case: Clunes v HMRC

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