I've got a tax assessment and I don't think it is right. How do I appeal?

If you believe that the way the Inland Revenue has calculated your tax is wrong, you can appeal to the General or Special Commissioners.

What you must remember, however, is that while the appeal is ongoing, interest is running on the amount of tax the Taxman says he thinks you owe, even if you think he is wrong. In the event that you lose your appeal, you will still have to pay the tax plus any interest. The General Commissioners are unpaid layman (with a variety of business and professional experience), led by a legal clerk and mostly handle simple tax appeals concerns with income tax. The Special Commissioners are paid legal professionals who deal with more complex tax matters and things like inheritance tax.

As a general rule, if you are confident that you can represent yourself in a Commissioners appeal hearing, then you probably can. You can certainly save yourself a considerable amount of money in terms of professional representation fees. Whether the case is for the General or Special Commissioners, there are basically three things you must do: prepare, prepare, prepare. You need to research and understand tax law; research and understand your case; show how your case corresponds with tax law.

For a General Commissioners appeal, you will need to agree a statement of facts with the Inland Revenue, and exchange all documents and records which refer to the statement – just as you would in any civil proceedings.

At the appeal hearing, there will be three Commissioners – one of which will be the Chairman. They will be assisted and guided by a clerk who has a legal background and who will guide the Commissioners through the case and the relevant tax law. The clerk will advise the Commissioners on how to determine whether tax law has been complied with by you – the taxpayer – and also by the Inland Revenue.

After each side (the taxpayer and the Taxman) presents their case, they can ask each other questions. The Commissioners may also want to ask each side questions. Most simple cases can be completed in a couple of hours, after which the taxpayer and Taxman will be asked to leave the room while the Commissioners discuss the case and reach their decision.

Once they are ready, the Commissioners arrive at their conclusion, they will announce their findings. Best of all, if you represent yourself, there is no charge for the appeal, and your only cost is the time and effort you have put in and any fees you may have paid to an accountant.

An appeal to the Special Commissioners is an entirely different matter because it is a much more formal and detailed process. Normally, the taxpayer is represented by a professional, but there are cases where taxpayers self-represent although this is the exception rather than the rule.

Article by Angela Brooks Wong