AWRS – Disclosure success in Tribunal


The Upper Tribunal had dismissed HMRC’s appeal in the Smart Price/Hare Wines AWRS disclosure case.

The case concerned whether HMRC should be required to provide only the documents that it wishes to rely upon  (which is the starting point under the Tribunal rules) or whether HMRC ought to be required to disclose all material that was considered by the decision making officer. HMRC has successfully applied to stay almost all AWRS appeals pending the outcome of this case.

The Upper Tribunal agreed with the FTT that the interests of justice required HMRC to provide all material that was considered by the decision maker (unless HMRC can show that the documents are especially sensitive or provision would be disproportionate).

This is an important decision because it means that the Appellants can now see everything that the decision making officer saw which will assist the Appellants in advancing arguments that HMRC took into account irrelevant factors or failed to take into account relevant factors. The case will likely have ramifications for HMRC’s disclosure obligations in other AWRS (and WOWGR) cases.

Of further note is an observation made by the Upper Tribunal as follows:

‘Mr Bedenham, on behalf of Hare Wines, pointed out that the letter from HMRC refusing approval said that the decision-maker had ‘taken the following key points into account in reaching the decision…’

without expressing any views as to the ultimate outcome of the appeal, there is a good arguable cases that the decision letter is inadequate and incomplete, in that the reference to ‘key points’ begs the question of what was taken into account by the decision maker, and what was disregarded.

A full copy of the judgment can be found here.

David Bedenham appeared for the successful taxpayer, instructed  by Sanjay Panesar and Anita Punpher of Rainer Hughes.