Oh, the devil IS in the detail: an interesting little case which shows just how important it is to read the small print.

In A. O. Sokoya V HMRC a taxpayer was successful in appealing a £50 penalty for failing to comply with a section 19 TMA 1970 disclosure notice. Whilst the taxpayer, who was unrepresented, had made arguments and appeals in the case which went all over the place (and to various courts and back again, as he tried to prevent the section 19 disclosures), the tribunal judge observed that HMRC had got the wording on the notice wrong. He cancelled the penalty.

The notice gave Mr Sokoya 30 days to disclose the documents requested from the date of the notice, but it should have been 30 days after the determination of the Special Commissioner in the original appeal.

The judge observed that “The due time is therefore one of the substantive bases for the imposition of a penalty. As s 19(10) provided for a specific time for compliance with the s 19A Notice in this case, a Penalty Notice that failed to record that time correctly cannot in substance and effect conform with or accord to the intent and meaning of the Taxes Acts”.

Although we now have a new tax penalty regime in place, always go over HMRC’s demands with a fine tooth comb. You never know...