In Glen Lyn Generations Limited & Exmoor Boat Cruises Limited v HMRC  TC06596, the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) concluded that the taxpayer did not have satisfactory reasons to fall within the exemption for filing VAT Returns online.
- The Director of the companies was 51 years old when he applied for exemption.
- He claimed the exemption on the basis that:
- He is 52 (at the time of the hearing) and had not been taught how to use a computer as part of general education
- He had not become familiar with computer use since.
- He admitted he could learn but does not wish to learn.
- He does not own a computer and does not want one. On this basis, he could only actually use a computer if he:
- Purchased one
- Used a friends
- Used the libraries, which is a long way away
- Employed an agent to file on the companies’ behalf.
HMRC did not grant exemption and the Director appealed.
The FTT decided that the FTT was limited to supervisory jurisdiction. This means they could only find for the appellant if it can be shown that HMRC’s decision not to allow exemption from online filing was one they could not reasonably have arrived either because no reasonable body of commissioners could have arrived at it, or irrelevant matters were taken into account or relevant matters were ignored, or there has been an error of law.
In this case, the FTT found that HMRC had not correctly considered how a taxpayer’s age can affect the application of the exemption, but that, in any case, the decision was not unreasonable.
- Age can be criterion in itself, as it be relevant to their ability to use a computer and deal with online filing.
- Someone who did not have exposure to computers during formative years may not be able to readily learn to use a computer.
- In this case though, other factors were considered and were if a greater significance, outweighing any considerations of age.
- The other factors considered to be the main reason for dismissing the exemption:
- It was the Director’s personal crusade to try and fall within the exemption. This is highlighted by previous failed attempts to claim exemption for different reasons.
- The companies had been filing returns online, via the agent.
The taxpayer’s appeal was dismissed.
This case was preceded by other tribunal hearings involving the Director. In previous hearings the Director had claimed exemption on the basis that:
- He had religious grounds to claim the exemption. This was struck out as not having any reasonable chance of successful appeal:
- He could not show he was a practicing member of the religious societies mentioned.
- He said he practiced his religion alone and did not believe he had to be a member of a religious group to benefit from the exemption.
- He uses other electronics, such as a TV and mobile phone.
- He did occasionally use the internet.
- The requirement to file online infringes human rights. This was struck out as not having a reasonable chance of success:
- The Director did use the internet to ensure the companies ‘stayed alive’ thereby putting the company needs above his own personal beliefs.
- Human rights do not protect against a belief that the law is wrong, as to do so would mean no one would be obliged to obey a law with which they disagreed.
- He had a disability that meant he was exempt. This was struck out:
- The Director’s bad back would not stop him using a computer.
The same exemptions are applied for Making Tax Digital for VAT. This case demonstrates that HMRC will have to have made an error in law or made a decision that no commissioner could reasonably have come to in order to succeed at appeal.