Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation First Report


  There are two bodies of tax appeal Commissioners; the Special Commissioners and the General Commissioners. Appeals on most tax issues are made to the General Commissioners with the taxpayer being entitled to elect for his or her appeal to be heard by the Special Commissioners.

  Both bodies have certain common features and there is a substantial cross over between their responsibilities. An appeal from the Special or General Commissioners is to the High Court on a point of law.

  The General Commissioners; these are unpaid lay volunteers appointed by the Lord Chancellor to local areas, known as Divisions, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, General Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of State. People appointed to be General Commissioners are representative of the local community and many are also magistrates. There are nearly 4,000 General Commissioners who are organised into 441 Divisions. Each Division of General Commissioners is supported by a Clerk who is normally legally qualified. The Clerks handle the administration relating to appeal meetings and advise the General Commissioners on law and procedure. The General Commissioners already have experience of appeals covering the entire tax spectrum from straightforward issues involving entitlement to basic allowances to the application of legislation in complicated situations. So, for example, they will have experience in determining the existence and duration of a contract of employment, a common area of difficulty for SSP and SMP as well as for NICs.

  The Special Commissioners; these are appointed by the Lord Chancellor. The principal difference between the Special and General Commissioners is that the Specials are legally qualified. Because of this legal qualification they hear, for the most part, the more complex and technical appeals. The Special Commissioners are based in London but travel to hear appeals in the major cities and will consider requests to hear appeals in any town or city where suitable accommodation is available.

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