In Brian Abrams and Eric Abrams v HMRC [2019] TC7288 a claim to grant an indefinite stay for an appeal based on the fact that too much time had passed, the taxpayers’ were now too old, and evidence had gone missing, failed.

The Tribunal rules provide general case management powers, including the power to grant a stay in a case. In exercising this power they must seek to give effect to the overriding objective to “deal with cases fairly and justly”.

Article 6(1) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (ECHR), provides:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

Brian Abrams and his brother Eric made claims for tax relief on the gift of shares in Taskcatch Plc to charity. The 2003 valuation of the shares was in issue and appeals by other taxpayers who made gifts of the shares were also before the Tribunal.

  • In the absence of a lead case it was directed by the tribunal that all of the appeals should be heard together.
  • Brian Abrams, aged 89, wrote to the Tribunal objecting to the directions and requesting that his appeal and that of his brother, aged 91, be “infinitely suspended and effectively cancelled” on the grounds that:
    • their ages meant they could not take part in the proceedings
    • HMRC’s conduct and delays meant a fair hearing was not possible as much of the evidence on which they could have relied was no longer available and that which remained was no longer “fresh”.
  • The tribunal treated this as a formal application for an indefinite stay.

The judge dismissed the application for an indefinite stay and concluded that:

  • Although the evidence which had been lost may have been of some assistance, it was not vital to the appeal as the necessary valuations could still be obtained; its absence would not prevent the Tribunal fairly determining the appeal especially compared to the alternative which would effectively be to allow the appeal.
  • As the appeals of Messrs Abrams were clearly “tax disputes” and outside the scope of civil rights and obligations, Article 6(1) ECHR could not assist them in their application for an indefinite stay.

The decision does not mention why the Taskcatch valuation appeals took so long. Those cases have yet to be heard by the tribunal but perhaps when they are this will shed some light on what occurred with regards to the delays and lost evidence. The judge did not comment on the impact of the Abrams’ brothers ages on their ability to recall events or participate in future hearings.

Links to our guides:

How to appeal an HMRC decision

Valuation: companies

External link:

Brian Abrams and Eric Abrams v HMRC [2019] TC7288

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