In Melvyn and Carol Langley v HMRC  TC08899, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) found that an SDLT enquiry opening letter, sent by HMRC two days before the enquiry window closed, was deemed to be delivered to the taxpayers in time. The enquiry and subsequent closure notice were valid.
- On 26 June 2020, Mr and Mrs Langley Amended a Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) return which had originally been submitted on 5 December 2019.
- HMRC opened an enquiry into the amendment. The enquiry opening letter was:
- Received by HMRC’s print supplier on 23 March 2021, printed and enveloped by machine the same day.
- Issued by First Class mail on 24 March 2021.
- Collected by Royal Mail between 4 pm and 5 pm on 24 March 2021.
- Following correspondence with Mr and Mrs Langley, HMRC issued a Closure notice on 1 December 2021.
- This reversed the amendment made and increased the SDLT liability by £71,250.
- Mr and Mrs Langley objected to the closure notice on the basis that the enquiry was invalid, having been opened outside of the statutory nine-month enquiry window.
- Mr and Mrs Langley stated the opening letter had not been received by 26 March 2021, nine months after the amendment.
- The closure notice was upheld by HMRC on Statutory review.
- Mr and Mrs Langley appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT).
The FTT found that:
- There was no contemporaneous evidence as to when the opening letter was received by Mr and Mrs Langley.
- Section 7 of the Interpretation Act 1978 deemed the opening letter to have been delivered when it would have been delivered ‘in the ordinary course of post’.
- The burden on HMRC was to show that the opening letter was correctly addressed; dated, prepared and sent for issue on 23 March; and posted by First Class mail on 24 March.
- This burden was met.
- Royal Mail’s Code of Practice stated that they aim to deliver First Class on the next working day, including Saturdays.
- While the target delivery date of 25 March may or may not have been met, it was more likely than not that delivery on the second working day (26 March) would have been achieved.
- Based on the House of Commons Library Report on ‘Royal Mail Services and the COVID-19 pandemic’, the statistic for this second-day delivery being met in 2020-21 was 93.7%.
- The opening letter was deemed delivered on 26 March 2021, meaning that the notice of enquiry was valid.
The appeal was dismissed.
Useful guides on this topic
SDLT: Amending returns & refunds
How do I amend an SDLT return? When can I amend an SDLT return? How do I claim an SDLT refund? How do I deal with contingent consideration?
When does HMRC issue a Closure Notice? Can a taxpayer demand one? Are there appeal rights?
Statutory Review (by HMRC)
What is a Statutory Review? When does HMRC offer a Statutory Review? Is it automatic? What happens in a Statutory Review? Can you challenge a Statutory Review's findings? Can you influence a Statutory Review? When does HMRC offer a Statutory Review?
SDLT: Stamp Duty Land Tax, start here
What is SDLT? What are the SDLT rates? What is exempt from SDLT? What reliefs are available? When are returns due? When can you amend a return?