Taxing cases - the absurdity that is HMRC
We deal with HMRC all the time. The individuals are usually great, but the system often leaves a lot to be desired. Take, for example, the sad case of Krzysztof Pokorowski. A self-employed electrician - he lost his job, used up all his savings and ended up homeless. His paperwork was lost or stolen when he was evicted but HMRC continued to chase him for penalties for not keeping them informed of his address. Judge Nikolas Aleksander described their decision to fine him as ridiculous.
“HMRC’s decision to pursue Mr Pokorowski for penalties in the circumstances of this appeal is a scandal. For HMRC to expect a homeless person to keep HMRC up-to-date with their address is ridiculous – and just needs to be stated to show its absurdity.”
What counts as a "reasonable excuse" is often a matter of debate, but there are clear examples which should (but are not) accepted by the tax man. You can read this tribunal decision here: Pokorowski v the Commissioners For Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs  UKFTT 86 (TC)
Nothing else to say, but "oh dear".
Our favourite tribunal case remains TM v Revenue & Customs. A case dealing with tax credits is seldom a gripping read, but Nicholas Wikely is a judge who thinks carefully and then says what he thinks. Is a Statement Like an Award Notice a decision by HMRC or not? You may well ask. And the judge answers "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. In the same way, if it looks like a decision, walks like a decision and quacks like a decision, then it probably is a decision."
How is this for an introduction?
The Appellant was born in Hungary in 1985. He probably cannot remember life there before the collapse of the former Communist regime in 1989. He has, however, doubtless heard tales from his parents and grandparents about the faceless and stifling government bureaucracy operating in Hungary before the restoration of democracy. He arrived in the UK in 2012 to work. He probably thought he had left those family memories well behind. Little did he know; his problems with Kafkaesque officialdom had only just begun....