The Supreme Court allowed the taxpayer’s appeal in relation to a confidentiality breach by HMRC.
This appeal concerns the scope of the duty of confidentiality owed by HMRC to taxpayers, contained in statute in the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 (the Act). The case revolved around comments made by the Permanent Secretary for Tax in HMRC to a national newspaper. The taxpayer applied for judicial review, although the Supreme Court’s view was that in substance it was a straightforward claim for breach of a duty of confidentiality. The High Court and the Court of Appeal both rejected the appeal, but the Supreme Court have now allowed it.
The taxpayer in this case promoted film investment schemes that utilised certain tax relief. The comments at issue were made during an off the record interview with a national newspaper which then published some of the content.
Key conclusions drawn by The Supreme Court were:
The Supreme Court did not give any weight to the fact that the Permanent Secretary believed the interview to be off the record, stating “… an impermissible disclosure of confidential information is no less impermissible just because the information is passed on in confidence.”
The Supreme Court held that the information disclosed to the journalists was confidential information. HMRC owed the taxpayer a duty of confidentiality and had no statutory grounds for disclosing confidential information.
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