Fraud and evasion cases: departmental reviews and appeals
All excise assessments are appealable, including those relating to civil evasion and/or criminal proceedings cases. Any request for a formal review received before departmental offence action has been completed should be undertaken by the review officer in the normal way. The review officer will require access to all relevant papers and information.
There is no power for a review officer to delay making a decision because there is a criminal case going on. However, communication should be a two-way process to ensure that the review officer is privy to all relevant information and in this context the review officer should discuss emerging findings with the investigation case officer before the review is completed. You should ensure that the criminal case solicitor is aware of any review.
If the assessment is upheld in whole or in part by the review officer, the assessed person may then appeal to the VAT and Duties Tribunals. To avoid issues from the criminal investigation being aired at a tribunal prior to the criminal case reaching court, HMRC will seek to have any hearing of the appeal against the review officer’s decision adjourned until the offence action has been completed.
Although there is no automatic stand-over in such cases, the tribunal will normally agree where either the appellant has consented or criminal proceedings have actually started.
Enforcement action should also normally be suspended. You must inform the Tribunal’s Division of the Solicitor’s Office that the case is subject to offence action.
Whilst it is desirable to ensure that, wherever possible, any criminal proceedings are underway before assessments are issued so that any tribunal appeal can be stood over until the end of the proceedings it is essential that any assessment satisfies the one-year rule as explained at the beginning of this section.
Persons who are notified of their joint and several liability to pay excise duty have the same review and appeal rights as assessed persons.