TaxAdministrationTaxman presses on with ‘unlawful’ raids investigation

Taxman presses on with ‘unlawful’ raids investigation

Taxman to press on with investigation into Mercury Tax Group, despite the Royal Courts of Justice backing the tax advisory practice

hmrc building

The taxman is planning to press on with an investigation involving a gilt
strips tax scheme and
Mercury Tax Group,
despite a judicial review ruling that it had overstepped its powers in raiding
the firm’s offices.

The
Royal
Courts of Justice
backed Mercury Tax Group’s claim that
HM Revenue &
Customs
unlawfully obtained warrants to conduct raids on the firm’s premises
and the home of CEO, Neil Masters.

An HMRC spokesman said the judgment also rebuffed Mercury’s claims that the
scheme had been ‘properly implemented’.

‘In light of this and further evidence that could not be used in the Judicial
Review, HMRC intends to continue with the investigation,’ he said.

Andy Wells, head of forensics and investigations at Mercury Tax Group, said
the Group feels vindicated by the decision, but said he is surprised HMRC are
planning further the action. ‘We wouldn’t expect them to be pursuing it. At this
stage we need them to adopt a sensible approach and if they’re not going to then
we have to deal with that,’ he said.

In addition, he said the department’s indication that further evidence is yet
to be utilized is unfounded. ‘That’s nonsense, quite frankly,’ he said.

The investigation is understood to centre on the structuring of a gilt strips
scheme.

In November 2007, the firm accused HMRC of adopting ‘sledgehammer’ tactics,
when it had fully co-operated with the department’s requests.

‘We don’t think there was ever just cause for seeking a warrant and the judge
agrees with us in those circumstances. All we can do is follow the judicial
review procedure, and if you’re not prepared to stand up and do that then be
prepared to suffer the consequences,’ said Wells.

The validity of the warrants was called into question after a number of
documents and computers were seized.

Wells said he expected damages to the firm’s brand to be factored into
compensation costs.

In delivering the decision, the judge said that if all the necessary facts
had been presented by HMRC, warrants to raid both premises would not have been
authorised.

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