Law firm alarmed at tribunal waiting list

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN RAISED over the amount of tax disputes awaiting tribunal by international law firm Pinsent Masons.

The backlog stood at 22,100 cases awaiting hearings in the final quarter of 2011, while the number going through the tribunals rose from 9,100 in 2010 to 11,000 in 2011.

Ian Hyde, partner at Pinsent Masons, told the Financial Times: “The increasing number of tribunal cases being heard is indicative of the pressure HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is under to clamp down on tax avoidance and to deliver extra revenue for the government during this period of tight public finances.”

However, the taxman has announced the introduction of alternative dispute resolutions (ADR) nation-wide after a successful pilot in the north west, south west, Wales and London earlier this year.

ADR is designed to find a swift and fair outcome to disputes, such as out of court settlements, to reduce costs and dependence on tribunals.

The process works by using impartial mediators to resolve disputes between HMRC and taxpayers to assess whether compliance was adhered to or not.

John Cassidy, tax partner at PKF, told Accountancy Age: “We’ve seen from the pilot that HMRC’s facilitators have remained impartial, so praise where praise is due.

“Eventually, external, independent mediators should be rolled out.”

Geoff Lloyd, director in Ernst & Young’s tax controversy team, welcomed the introduction of the settlements.

“ADR has been remarkably successful in resolving tax disputes of all shapes and sizes, avoiding the costs and delays to both sides of going to court,” he said.

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