Regina v Inland Revenue Commissioners, ex parte MFK Underwriting Agents Ltd: CA 1990

Legitimate Expectation once created not withdrawn

The claimant said that a change of practice by the Revenue was contrary to a legitimate expectation.
Held: The Inland Revenue could not withdraw from a representation if it would cause: substantial unfairness to the applicant; if the conditions for relying upon any such representation were fulfilled; and if holding the Inland Revenue to the representation did not prevent it from exercising its statutory duties.
Fairness was a well-established ingredient of the notion of legitimate expectation. A claim to a legitimate expectation can be based only upon a promise which is ‘clear, unambiguous and devoid of relevant qualification.’ and ‘In so stating these requirements I do not, I hope, diminish or emasculate the valuable, developing doctrine of legitimate expectation. If a public authority so conducts itself as to create a legitimate expectation that a certain course will be followed it would often be unfair if the authority were permitted to follow a different course to the detriment of one who entertained the expectation, particularly if he acted on it. If in private law a body would be in breach of contract in so acting or estopped from so acting a public authority should generally be in no better position. The doctrine of legitimate expectation is rooted in fairness. But fairness is not a one-way street. It imports the notion of equitableness, of fair and open dealing, to which the authority is as much entitled as the citizen.’
The court will only interfere in a decision if the respondents have exercised their discretion unreasonably and in considering that question, the respondents’ judgment is not to be lightly cast aside.

Bingham LJ
[1990] 1 WLR 1545, [1990] 1 All ER 91
England and Wales
Appeal fromRegina v Inland Revenue Commissioners, ex parte MFK Underwriting Agents Ltd 1989
The taxpayer complained of a change in Inland Revenue practice which, it said, went against a legitimate expectation created by the scheme.
Held: Judge J said: ‘There is a detailed procedure for resolving disputes between the Inland Revenue . .

Cited by:
CitedBloggs 61, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 18-Jun-2003
The applicant sought review of a decision to remove him from a witness protection scheme within the prison. He claimed that having been promised protection, he had a legitimate expectation of protection, having been told he would receive protection . .
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 . .
AffirmedBancoult, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) HL 22-Oct-2008
The claimants challenged the 2004 Order which prevented their return to their homes on the Chagos Islands. The islanders had been taken off the island to leave it for use as a US airbase. In 2004, the island was no longer needed, and payment had . .
CitedLondon Borough of Hillingdon and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v The Lord Chancellor and others Admn 6-Nov-2008
The claimant challenged the substantial increase in court fees in public law children cases in the Fees Orders. The respondent said that the orders were intended to reflect the true costs of such proceedings and that funding had been provided to . .
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 . .
CitedGrimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education, Regina (on The Application of) v Learning and Skills Council Admn 12-Aug-2010
The applicant had applied to the respondent for funding for new buildings. The application was approved, but the application was rejected when the respondent ran out of funds. The claimant said that a legitimate expectation had been created, and . .
CitedWheeler, Regina (on the Application of) v Office of the Prime Minister and Another Admn 2-May-2008
The applicant sought leave to bring judicial review of the prime minister’s decsion not to hold a referendum on the ratification of the treaty of Lisbon.
Held: The claimant had arguable points under the 2000 Act and otherwise, and permission . .
CitedBadger Trust, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Admn 29-Aug-2014
The respondent had carried out the first round of a badger cull, subject to supervision and reporting by an independent expert panel. Promoises were made, the claimant said, that the panel’s role would be maintained for any subsequent round. The . .
CitedBancoult, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) SC 29-Jun-2016
Undisclosed Matter inadequate to revisit decision
The claimant sought to have set aside a decision of the House of Lords as to the validity of the 2004 Order, saying that it had been based on a failure by the defendant properly to disclose matters it was under a duty of candour to disclose.
CitedJJ Management Consulting Llp and Others v Revenue and Customs CA 22-Jun-2020
HMRC has power to conduct informal investigation
The taxpayer, resident here, but with substantial oversea business interests, challenged the conduct of an informal investigation of his businesses under the 2005 Act, saying that HMRC, as a creature of statute, are only permitted to do that which . .
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.

Natural Justice, Administrative

Leading Case

Updated: 16 January 2022; Ref: scu.183656