In a case where the delay in making an appeal was both serious and significant, permission for a late appeal was refused despite a technical error on HMRC’s part (Lincoln v HMRC  UKFTT 26 (TC)).
HMRC had issued a statutory review conclusion letter, which incorrectly referred to TMA 1970, s. 49 rather than to IHTA 1984, s. 223. This was later corrected, or so it appeared. However, the appellant had been clearly told that she had 30 days in which to appeal and, in the event, her appeal was more than 11 months late. In the interim, the appellant had written to HMRC “at considerable length but stating explicitly that she did not wish to take the matter to the Tribunal” as she felt that such a step would not be practicable.
Based on the IHT legislation, Counsel for HMRC pointed out that there was no reasonable prospect of the appellant succeeding even if the appeal were to be permitted to proceed. The FTT concluded that:
“There was no doubt as to the time limit for lodging an appeal with the Tribunal. The appellant simply did not see the point and did not want to do so until a very late stage. If we were to allow the late appeal in the circumstances of this appeal that would be contrary to the principle of ensuring that time limits are respected. Litigation should be conducted efficiently and at proportionate cost.”
The tribunal also noted that “complaints about HMRC are the antithesis of a good reason for not appealing to the Tribunal on time”.
HMRC were entitled to expect finality in litigation, and there would be cost implications from arguing the merits of the appeal. The late appeal was therefore not permitted.
The decision serves as a reminder that ongoing correspondence with HMRC is not a substitute for lodging an appeal within the statutory time limits.