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According to a VAT expert, accountants should warn their clients that appealing against decisions made by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is likely to fail. Government data shows that the chance of success when disputing official decisions is around one in four.

During 2013-14, the number of appeals received by HMRC was 7,081. Of those cases, 6,626 were settled informally. Out of the remaining appeals, 75 per cent of them were settled at tribunal in favour of HMRC. According to the expert Glyn Edwards, accountants need to make their clients aware that the chances of winning a case against HMRC at tribunal are very slim.

Data indicates that only a few hundred appeals are heard at tribunal and, of those, few are likely to be won by the client.

Edwards adds that the costs at first-tier tribunal can’t be claimed back, even if the client wins. It is also worth noting that clients are more likely to win if they have representation, rather than choosing to represent themselves.

Here are five tips for increasing your chances of securing a win at tribunal:

1) Before appealing to the tribunal, consider requesting a review of the decision by an independent officer at HMRC. The original decision may be overturned or varied.

2) HMRC offers an Alternative Dispute Resolution service, which is designed to negotiate a settlement without having to attend tribunal. Apply for ADR to see if you can reach a settlement with HMRC.

3) Prior to appealing against a decision by HMRC, research any similar cases that have been heard at tribunal and look for the relevant legislation. This may give you an idea of whether you could win or not.

4) Apply to appeal within the specified time limits. If you do decide to appeal against a decision, keep to the relevant deadlines which are issued by the court for provision of documents, dates to avoid, and other requests

5) Be prepared for the tribunal hearing ahead of the date. If you have a representative, make sure they have all the relevant facts and know the case inside out. Provide documentary evidence and witnesses where possible, so that a judge doesn’t have to rely on your words alone.

Appealing against a decision made by HMRC is a complex and sometimes daunting process. If you would like some advice, call us here at The Accountancy Partnership.

About The Author

Karl Bilby

We work very closely with our expert accountants to bring you the latest factually correct tax and accounting news. We also enjoy writing about small business news that we hope you find useful!

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