Regina v Inland Revenue Commission ex parte Preston; In re Preston: HL 1984

Duty of Fairness to taxpayer – Written Assurance

The applicant was assured by the Inland Revenue that it would not raise further inquiries on certain tax affairs if he agreed to forgo interest relief which he had claimed and to pay a certain sum in capital gains tax.
Held: Where the lawfulness of the section 9A notice was itself in issue, neither the question of a section 19A notice nor of an appeal against it arose. Judicial review can be competent in exceptional circumstances, where the challenges to the decisions include assertions that there has been an abuse of power and unreasonableness.
The House considered the availability of judicial review alongside a statutory right of appeal: ‘The court can only intervene by judicial review to direct the Commissioners to abstain from performing their statutory duties or from exercising their statutory powers if the court is satisfied that ‘the unfairness’ of which the applicant complains renders the insistence by the Commissioners on performing their duties or exercising their powers an abuse of power by the Commissioners’.
Where a public body gives undertakings which conflict with its statutory duty, it was in principle entitled to go back on the undertaking. However, if the authority made an assurance and then exercised its statutory power in a manner which caused unfairness, that exercise could be viewed as an abuse of power and the undertaking upheld by the courts.
Lord Templeman: ‘In the present case, the appellant does not allege that the commissioners invoked section 460 for improper purposes or motives or that the commissioners misconstrued their powers and duties. However, the HTV case and the authorities there cited suggest that the commissioners are guilty of ‘unfairness’ amounting to an abuse of power if by taking action under section 460 their conduct would, in the case of an authority other than Crown authority, entitle the appellant to an injunction or damages based on breach of contract or estoppel by representation. In principle I see no reason why the appellant should not be entitled to judicial review of a decision taken by the commissioners if that decision is unfair to the appellant because the conduct of the commissioners is equivalent to a breach of contract or a breach of representation. Such a decision falls within the ambit of an abuse of power for which in the present case judicial review is the sole remedy and an appropriate remedy. There may be cases in which conduct which savours of breach of conduct or breach of representation does not constitute an abuse of power; there may be circumstances in which the court in its discretion might not grant relief by judicial review notwithstanding that conduct which savours of breach of contract or breach of representation. In the present case, however, I consider that the appellant is entitled to relief by way of judicial review for ‘unfairness” amounting to abuse of power if the commissioners have been guilty of conduct equivalent to a breach of contract or breach of representations on their part.’

Lords Scarman and Templeman
[1985] AC 835, [1984] UKHL 5, [1985] BTC 208, [1984] 3 WLR 945, [1985] 2 All ER 327
Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970
England and Wales
CitedHTV Ltd v Price Commission CA 1976
Policies created by public bodies are a means of promoting consistency while not fettering the discretion of a public body. They allow others to know how the authority will respond to those who must deal with the authority. In maiing such policies: . .

Cited by:
CitedRegina v Beatrix Potter School ex parte Kanner Admn 20-Dec-1996
The applicant’s child had been offered a place by the respondent. The offer was withdrawn.
Held: The school when deciding was entitled to look to the need for efficiency in education. On appeal, the committee may go against that need. The . .
CitedRegina (G) v Immigration Appeal Tribunal; Regina (M) v Immigration Appeal Tribunal Admn 25-Mar-2004
The applicants sought judicial review of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal’s refusal of leave to appeal. The court had to decide whether such a right survived section 101 of the 2001 Act.
Held: The right to have a judicial review could only be . .
CitedUK Tradecorp Ltd, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioners for Customs and Excise Admn 10-Nov-2004
The trader had traded in zero-rated goods, leading to a net reclaim of input tax. Having submitted a claim, it sought repayment, and interest on the sums withheld.
Held: No duty fell upon the commissioners until they had accepted the claim to . .
CitedRashid, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 16-Jun-2005
The Home Secretary appealed against a grant of a judicial review to the respondent who had applied for asylum. The court had found that two other asylum applicants had been granted leave to remain on similar facts and on the appellants, and that it . .
CitedRegina (Nadarajah) v Secretary of State for the Home Department; Abdi v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 22-Nov-2005
The asylum applicant challenged a certificate given by the respondent that the claim for asylum was manifestly ill-founded. The respondent had made a mistake in applying the appropriate policy, but had sought to correct the error. The claimants . .
CitedRegina v Inland Revenue Commissioners Ex Parte Matrix Securities Ltd HL 14-Mar-1994
The applicant had obtained what it thought to be clearance from the Revenue for a complex scheme, whose effectiveness depended on whether investors would qualify for capital allowances. The Inspector initially gave a favourable assurance, but that . .
CitedOxfam v Revenue and Customs ChD 27-Nov-2009
The charity appealed against refusal to allow it to reclaim input VAT. It also sought judicial review of the decision of the Tribunal not to allow it to raise an argument of legitimate expectation. The charity had various subsidiaries conducting . .
CitedMills and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Sussex Police and Another Admn 25-Jul-2014
The claimants faced criminal charges involving allegations of fraud and corruption. They now challenged by judicial review a search and seizure warrant saying that it was unlawful. A restraint order had been made against them and they had complied . .
CitedIngenious Media Holdings Plc and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Revenue and Customs SC 19-Oct-2016
The tax payer complained that the Permanent Secretary for Tax had, in an off the record briefing disclosed tax details regarding a film investment scheme. Despite the off the record basis, details were published in a newspaper. His claims had been . .
CitedGallaher Group Ltd and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v The Competition and Markets Authority SC 16-May-2018
No Administrative Duty of Equal Treatment
Extent and consequences of duties of ‘equal treatment’ or ‘fairness’, said to have been owed by the Office of Fair Trading to those subject to investigation under the Competition Act 1998. The respondent had entered negotiations with several parties . .
CitedFinucane, Re Application for Judicial Review SC 27-Feb-2019
(Northern Ireland) The deceased solicitor was murdered in his home in 1989, allegedly by loyalists. They had never been identified, though collusion between security forces and a loyalist paramilitary was established. The ECHR and a judge led . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Judicial Review, Income Tax

Leading Case

Updated: 16 January 2022; Ref: scu.179860