The Upper Tribunal has handed down the important decision in HMRC v Martyn Perfect.
Mr Perfect was a self-employed HGV driver who was stopped by the Border Force at Dover Docks. The HGV he was driving was found to contain a load of alcohol on which UK duty had not been paid (and which was not in duty suspense). Mr Perfect was an ‘innocent agent’ (that is, he had simply been asked to bring a load of alcohol into the UK and, whilst he knew he was carrying a load of alcohol, he did not know and did not suspect that there was any unpaid duty on that alcohol. Rather Mr Perfect (wrongly) thought that the load was in duty suspense). Despite being an innocent agent, HMRC assessed Mr Perfect for the excise duty on the alcohol and further issued him with a penalty under schedule 41 of the Finance Act 2008.
Mr Perfect successfully appealed to the FTT. HMRC then appealed to the Upper Tribunal.
In finding in Mr Perfect’s favour the Upper Tribunal stated
‘We do not accept that it is fair, proportionate or reasonable to imposed liability for evaded excise duty on HGV drivers who are found in possession of the goods at the point that the evasion is discovered, but who lack any involvement in or knowledge of the criminal enterprise; they are not aware that the tax has been evaded on the goods they are carrying, and nor can it be said that they should have been aware.’
A copy of the Upper Tribunal’s decision can be found here.
David Bedenham acts for Mr Perfect (instructed by Sanjay Panesar and Natalie Wallis of Rainer Hughes).