Wang v Commissioner of Inland Revenue: PC 19 Oct 1994

(Hong Kong) At first instance the judge found that the deputy commissioner lacked jurisdiction to make two determinations since he had not done so within a reasonable time required by the imperative language of the statute. The Court of Appeal reversed the decision.
Held: The delay on a Commissioners decision took it outside the allowable ‘reasonable time’ but the decision remained valid. The Board considered the distinction between two types of regulatory requirements, (1) requirements of a purely regulatory character where a failure to comply would never invalidate the act, and (2) requirements where a failure to comply would not invalidate an act provided that there was substantial compliance.
Lord Slynn of Hadley said: ‘their Lordships consider that when a question like the present one arises – an alleged failure to comply with a time provision – it is simpler and better to avoid these two words ‘mandatory’ and ‘directory’ and to ask two questions. The first is whether the legislature intended the person making the determination to comply with the time provision, whether a fixed time or a reasonable time. Secondly, if so, did the legislature intend that a failure to comply with such a time provision would deprive the decision maker of jurisdiction and render any decision which he purported to make null and void?
In the present case the legislature did intend that the Commissioner should make his determination within a reasonable time . . If the Commissioner failed to act within a reasonable time he could be compelled to act by an order of mandamus. It does not follow that his jurisdiction to make a determination disappears the moment a reasonable time has elapsed. If the court establishes the time by which a reasonable time is to be taken as having expired, which will depend on all the circumstances, including factors affecting not only the taxpayer but also the Inland Revenue, it would be surprising if the result was that the commissioner had jurisdiction to make the determination just before but not just after that time. Their Lordships do not consider that that is the effect of a failure to comply with the obligation to act within a reasonable time in the present legislation. Such a result would not only deprive the government of revenue, it would also be unfair to other taxpayers who need to shoulder the burden of government expenditure; the alternative result (that the commissioner continues to have jurisdiction) does not necessarily involve any real prejudice for the taxpayer in question by reason of the delay.’

Lord Slynn of Hadley
Gazette 19-Oct-1994, [1994] 1 WLR 1286, [1995] 1 All ER 367
England and Wales
FollowedLondon and Clydeside Estates v Aberdeen District Council HL 8-Nov-1979
Identifying ‘maandatory’ and ‘regulatory’
The appellants had sought a Certificate of Alternative Development. The certificate provided was defective in that it did not notify the appellants, as required, of their right to appeal. Their appeal out of time was refused.
Held: The House . .

Cited by:
CitedCharles v The Judicial and Legal Service Commission and The Disciplinary Tribunal PC 19-Jun-2002
PC (Trinidad and Tobago) Disciplinary proceedings had commenced against the appellant, the chief magistrate, but the time limits had not been followed. The appellant argued that the time limits were mandatory. . .
CitedRegina v Soneji and Bullen HL 21-Jul-2005
The defendants had had confiscation orders made against them. They had appealed on the basis that the orders were made more than six months after sentence. The prosecutor now appealed saying that the fact that the order were not timely did not . .
CitedNorth Somerset District Council v Honda Motor Europe Ltd and Others QBD 2-Jul-2010
Deleayed Rates Claims Service made them Defective
The council claimed that the defendants were liable for business rates. The defendants said that the notices were defective in not having been served ‘as soon as practicable’, and further that they should not be enforced since the delay had created . .
CitedAbdi, Regina v CACD 31-Jul-2007
The appellant had been convicted of a sexual assault on a boy, and recommended for deportation on completion of his sentence. He had not however been served with notice of the possibility of such an order, as required by section 6 of the 1971 Act, . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Income Tax

Updated: 20 November 2021; Ref: scu.90290