IR35 status expert warns against Judicial Review clampdown

An IR35 status expert has echoed concern from a freelance medical practitioners’ body about Boris Johnson’s plan to fast-track a clampdown on Judicial Reviews.

Rebecca Seeley Harris said that amid IR35 reform and other legislative attacks, the contractor sector needed to still “be able to challenge the actions or failure to act of a public body”.

Judicial Review is about the supervision of administrative decision-making and is a fast and effective way of convincing a public body to reconsider a decision or force them to take action they should be taking. 

“If this is curtailed by government,” warned Seeley Harris, the founder of IR35 advisory Re Legal Consulting, “it would be an attack on democracy itself.”

'Unfair'

A supporter of the appeal-fund of Dr George Mantides, who is trying to overturn what he regards as an “unfair” decision about his IR35 status, agrees.  

“The whole point of the separation of powers is not having any one body in full control with each branch - the legislature (parliament), the judiciary, and the executive,” the supporter says.

“[Each separate branch] keeping watch on the other, and the judiciary particularly ensuring that parliament, not the executive remains supreme as a guardian of parliamentary sovereignty [is vital].”

'Strikes a blow'

The source added: “Weakening the power of the judiciary against the executive risks allowing the government to overreach unchecked. It strikes a blow at the very core of our democratic system.”

That overreaching, or ‘overstepping of its authority’ has been red-flagged in relation to HMRC, by a law firm which has part-blamed a leap in Judicial Reviews (JR) on the Revenue’s “very dogmatic and aggressive approach.”

Challenges of that approach through the courts are far from always successful but Seeley Harris points out that the JR’s outcome is not always the sole prize for taxpayers.

'Keep Judicial Reviews unshackled'

“Despite losing their Judicial Review on IR35 back in 2000, it was at least an available option for the then-PCG to bring that action and for the court [and the public, and policy-makers] to hear those arguments.”

She added: “The presiding Mr Justice Burton has since been quoted many times from the case and was understood to have sympathy with the taxpayer, even handing down recommendations to HMRC on the future implementation of IR35.

"This is something that observers of today’s IR35 Reform Review should find ironic, and grounds to keep Judicial Reviews unshackled.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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