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HMRC internal manual

Child Benefit Technical Manual

Misrepresentation: Exception to misrepresentation

Saunders v Anglian Building Society (1971) AC1004

A claimant or representative may state that an incorrectly completed form with a signed declaration is not a misrepresentation because the claimant completing the form did notknow what they were doing. This may happen where someone should have been appointed to run that claimant’s affairs, and the claimant completed the forms in question. That claimant may not then be held responsible for the completion.

Where it is claimed that a person is not responsible, the following points must be considered;

  • Non-responsibility is limited to those who are blind, illiterate or do not fully understand a particular form they have signed. This may be caused by poor education, illness or inborn incapacity and can be temporary or permanent.
  • Poor education, illness or inborn incapacity alone is not sufficient to show non- responsibility. People are expected to take reasonable steps to understand what they sign
  • The burden of proof rests with persons who contend that they are not responsible. Those who are merely content to sign without taking the trouble to find out the general effect of the form cannot claim to be non-responsible.
  • People may contend that they are not responsible because, having signed the form, they believe it had one effect when in fact its effect was quite different. They must show that they had taken steps or been given information which gave grounds for the belief and there was a radical, serious or very substantial difference between what they signed and what they thought they were signing.
  • People are responsible where they were merely mistaken as to the legal effect of the form, whether the mistake was their own or that of an advisor.

Non-responsibility may also be referred to as non est factum, whichmeans, “it is not his deed”.