Lawyers slam Govt plans to charge for tax appeals

Lawyers and accountants have attacked Government plans to charge individuals who appeal decisions made by HM Revenue & Customs.

The Law Society warns the proposals to cut costs in the judicial system both undermine access to independent rulings and make the tax office too powerful, the Financial Times reports.

A Ministry of Justice consultation suggests introducing fees of between £50 and £200 for referring cases to the first-tier tax tribunal.

There would be a £200 to £1,000 charge for hearings – depending on complexity – while going to the Upper Tribunal would cost £100 initially and up to £2,000 for a hearing.

Law Society president Jonathan Smithers says: “The Government is effectively selling justice by saying that you need to pay for the courts.”

He warns: “To fight charges levied by one branch of government, you would have to pay another division of government … [this] leads to a feeling there’s a fairly heavy-handed state.”

Currently taxpayers have a right to apply for free to use the first-tier tribunal to challenge HMRC rulings.

Fees relating to divorce cases are also set to rise in the cost cutting drive. Charges to issue divorce proceedings will rise from £410 to £550, and the cost of filing possession claims in the county court will increase from £280 to £355.

The Ministry of Justice says court fees can be waived for people who cannot afford to pay.

It adds: “It is right that those using this service should make a contribution.

“We recognise that fees are never popular but at every stage we have sought to protect the most vulnerable. The modest fees proposed in the consultation paper mean charges will remain well below what it actually costs to run the property and tax tribunals.”