Michael Blackwell, The tax tribunals: the next 10 years (Tax Law Review Committee: IFS, 2021)
The report of the Tax Law Review Committee (TLRC) The tax tribunals: the next ten years identifies present strengths of the Tax Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) and addresses areas for improvement.
Major causes of dissatisfaction among FTT users include delay, a lack of communication by the FTT administration, a lack of engagement by some judges during the hearing and the allocation of cases to judges with the appropriate knowledge or skill. Delay is the overriding concern among tribunal users surveyed: both delay between the hearing and the release of the decision (which sometimes is over one year) and delay caused by the FTT administration. Especially in relation to the FTT administration, the underlying cause of these problem seems to be a lack of funding, as there is a rapid staff-turnover with staff leaving for better renumerated jobs in other parts of the civil service.
The report also identifies existing areas of strength of the FTT, including how litigants in person are often assisted by judges taking an inquisitorial approach. The report identifies potential for further improvements to access to justice for litigants in person, including (should resources permit) allowing remote video-hearings as an alternative to having cases determined on paper without a hearing, and the possible establishment of a pro-bono advocacy scheme.
Annexed to the report are the results of a survey and interviews of tribunal users (mostly solicitors and barristers) which, together with the experiences of members of the TLRC, informed the report.