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HMRC internal manual

Business Income Manual

Meaning of trade: general: roles of Tribunal and courts

The leading case on the roles of the Tribunal and the courts where findings of fact are at issue is Edwards v Bairstow and Harrison [1955] 36TC207.

In that case two taxpayers bought a spinning plant with the object of selling it as quickly as possible at a profit. The plant was sold in five separate lots over a period of many months. The Commissioners (the predecessors of the First-tier Tribunal) had found that there was an isolated transaction and that it was not an adventure in the nature of trade.

The judgements in the House of Lords discuss the extent to which the courts (or the Upper Tribunal) can properly interfere in a decision of the Commissioners or First-tier Tribunal and support the guidance in BIM20070. More specifically, the case is an example of the courts finding that the primary facts all pointed one way and the Commissioners’ conclusion pointed the other. It was held in the House of Lords that the only reasonable conclusion on the evidence before the Commissioners was that the transaction was an adventure in the nature of trade.