Supreme Court decision: Ingenious Media Holdings | KPMG | UK

Supreme Court decision: Ingenious Media Holdings plc v HMRC

Supreme Court decision: Ingenious Media Holdings

The Supreme Court allowed the taxpayer’s appeal in relation to a confidentiality breach by HMRC.

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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: 

  • Where information of a personal or confidential nature is obtained or received in the exercise of a legal power or in furtherance of a public duty, the recipient will in general owe a duty to the person from whom it was received or to whom it relates not to use it for other purposes; and
  • While HMRC’s statutory duty of confidentiality permits disclosure to the extent reasonably necessary for HMRC to fulfil its primary function, the Supreme Court took the view that Parliament’s intention in drafting the Act was not to provide a wide ranging exemption from confidentiality. In addition, HMRC had previously established their duty of confidentiality regarding taxpayer affairs, such as refusing to give information on tax settlements to the Public Accounts Committee.

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.”

Conclusion

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.

To view the judgment click here

 

For further information please contact :

Chris Davidson

Sharon Baynham

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