Regina 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 The Inspector initially gave a favourable assurance, but that was subsequently withdrawn.
Held: The taxpayer’s application failed. A tax clearance certificate was properly withdrawn for a failure by the taxpayer to make a full disclosure.
Lord Jauncey refered to Lord Templemen’s dicta in the Preston case and said: ‘I take from these passages (i) that the court may properly review a decision of the Revenue to exercise it’s statutory powers if the decision is so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power although the court has a discretion to refuse relief even if such decision does not savour of such abuse…’
Lord Browne-Wilkinson: ‘It is now established that, in certain circumstances, it is an abuse of power for the Revenue to seek to extract tax contrary to an advance clearance given by the Revenue. In such circumstances, the taxpayers can by way of judicial review apply for an order preventing the Revenue from seeking to enforce the tax legislation in a sense contrary to the assurance given (see Preston -v- IRC [1985] AC 835). But the courts can only restrain the Revenue from carrying out their duties to enforce taxation obligations imposed by legislation where the assurances given by the Revenue make it unfair to contend for a different tax consequence, as a result of which unfairness the exercise of their statutory powers by the Revenue would constitute an abuse of power (see [1985] AC 835 at 864 per Lord Templeman). It is further established that if the taxpayer, in seeking advance clearance, has not made a full disclosure of the relevant circumstances, the Revenue are not acting unfairly, and therefore are not abusing their powers, if they go back on an advance clearance which they have only given in ignorance of the relevant circumstances (see [1985] AC 835 at 867 per Lord Templeman, and R -v- IRC, ex p MFK Underwriting Agencies Ltd [1990] 1 WLR 1545’.
Lord Griffiths: ‘In this case the local tax Inspector made a bad mistake. He gave clearance to a scheme proposed by Matrix Securities which Lord Templeman has exposed as a manifestly impermissible tax avoidance scheme. Although the letter of 15 July 1993 in which Matrix put the scheme to the Inspector was not expressed as clearly as it might have been, I have no doubt that if the Inspector had read it carefully he would have realised either that it was a tax avoidance scheme or at the very least it should be considered by the special list division of the Inland Revenue before clear answer was given. In either case he should not have given his clearance.
. . . I wish however to add a word of a more general nature to the issue that has arisen in the appeal. It is part of the human condition that people will make mistakes, but they must not be held to mistaken decisions if the mistake is discovered in time to take effective remedial action. In the present case the specialist unit discovered the mistake made by their tax Inspector and gave immediate notice to Matrix that they could not approve the scheme before any money had been invested by the public in the scheme. In these circumstances even if the Inspector had been the right person to submit the secheme to in the first instance, and even if the scheme had been clearly set out it would be wholly wrong to hold the Revenue to the mistaken clearance and allow the scheme to go ahead at a cost of some 38 million pounds of lost Revenue to the national exchequer. It is one thing to hold the Revenue to a clearance that has been acted upon in good faith, but quite another to permit the correction of an error before it has been acted upon.
If however Matrix had been entitled to rely on the clearance given by the Inspector and had spent money in promoting the scheme before the clearance was withdrawn, then it seems to me that fairness demands that Matrix should be reimbursed for this out of pocket expense and it could be regarded as an abuse of power for the Revenue to refuse to do so. This point does not have to be decided in this appeal but I mention it because this aspect of the argument only surfaced towards the end of the hearing and the Revenue strenuously resisted any liability to compensate Matrix in such circumstances.’
Lord Browne-Wilkinson, Lord Jauncey, Lord Griffiths
Ind Summary 14-Mar-1994, [1994] 1 WLR 334, [1994] STC 272
England and Wales
Appeal fromRegina v Inland Revenue Commissioners, Ex Parte Matrix Securities Ltd CA 10-Nov-1993
The withdrawal of a scheme approval after non-disclosure by the taxpayer was not an abuse of power by the Commissioners. . .
CitedRegina v Inland Revenue Commission ex parte Preston; In re Preston HL 1984
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 . .
At First InstanceRegina v Inland Revenue Commissioners Ex Parte Matrix Securities Ltd QBD 22-Oct-1993
A tax clearance was properly withdrawn because of non-disclosure. There was no abuse by the Revenue. . .

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 . .
CitedChurchhouse, Regina (on the Application of) v Inland Revenue Admn 4-Apr-2003
The taxpayer was a revenue informer one whose trade is described by Coke as ‘viperous vermin [who] under the reverend mantle of law and justice instituted for protection of the innocent, and the good of the Commonwealth, did vexe and depauperize the . .
CitedABC Ltd v Inspector of Taxes SCIT 20-Jul-2001
SCIT CAPITAL ALLOWANCES – Purchase by a UK company of plant and machinery from XYZ, a non-UK corporation – Lease back by the company to XYZ – Sublease by XYZ to a subsidiary UK company – Various security . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 13 February 2021; Ref: scu.86935