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HMRC internal manual

Appeals reviews and tribunals guidance

Judicial review: Pre-action letters

The leave of the court must be obtained before a claim for judicial review can be made (except in Scotland). In England and Wales, before any application for permission to begin proceedings is made, the person who is thinking of taking action against a public body should normally send a ‘pre-action letter’ to that body.

The purpose of the pre-action letter is to identify the issues in dispute and to establish whether litigation can be avoided. The public body must reply to the pre-action letter (usually within 14 days).

A letter will only be a pre-action letter if it complies with Annex A of the protocol in the Civil Procedures Practice Direction. This includes details of the matter being challenged, and any documents considered relevant and necessary. A letter that simply threatens judicial review without further detail is not a pre-action letter.

Therefore anyone who receives a pre-action letter must (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) , or if Solicitor’s Office is already involved, the relevant lawyer.

Most pre-action letters complain about something HMRC has done or failed to do, so the letter should also be reported to the complaints team for the relevant business unit.

The case owner and the complaints team may consider whether the disputed decision should be modified in any way. But they should not reply to the letter or alter the decision before obtaining advice (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000) .