A landmark tax verdict that would have befitted many smaller dealers in the forecourt sector has been overturned after HMRC won an appeal, but the tax expert who fought the first case believes there is still room to fight.
The case centred on a bid by former Top 50 Indie Brobot to obtain duty deferment on fuel supplies, and actions by HMRC to obstruct it.
Last September Brobot won at a tax tribunal when the judge found that HMRC had acted unreasonably, but HMRC appealed the decision.
After the first decision Brobot was taken over by fellow Top 50 Indie HKS and when the appeal was heard no one had been instructed to defend it, so HMRC’s case was not challenged.
Tax expert Alan Powell, who represented Brobot at the first hearing, said: “The tribunal finds HMRC had not acted unreasonably on the basis of the first tribunal decision which unfortunately was a bit short on facts and law. What is not mentioned is crucial.”
Powell said that HMRC argued that it would not issue a deferment account number (DAN) to Brobot because of the “risk”, and that was their entire case.
He added: “I proved there was no risk. I pressed in cross-examination and they couldn’t explain why they made such an unsubstantiated assertion.”
Powell said the appeal verdict set a precedent which made challenging HMRC on the issue of duty deferment more difficult, but it may be subject to further appeal because the decision impacts adversely on other industries which have hitherto enjoyed access to full deferment.
For more detail on the case, and the potential benefits for dealers, see next week’s issue of Forecourt Trader.