John, a full-time carer for his dad who has dementia, was struggling with a tax dispute with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for almost five years. With the assistance of Keith Gordon and Siobhan Duncan of Temple Tax Chambers, John was prevented from losing his home. Furthermore, Keith and Siobhan managed to secure a significant pro bono costs order, a huge bonus to help fund future pro bono work.

Please note: a false name has been picked to protect the Applicant’s identity.

John first approached Advocate in 2022 after being in a tax dispute with HMRC for almost five years. The dispute was related to properties sold by John during these years, in relation to which, and in the First Tier Tribunal, HMRC wanted to charge Capital Gains Tax.

John maintained that he was exempt from this tax, because as a full-time employed carer for his dad, who suffers from dementia, he was in job-related accommodation. Nonetheless, the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) disagreed, ruling that Capital Gains Tax was due, and that John was not in job-related accommodation.

This ruling placed John at risk of losing his home if he could not satisfy demands for payments of £22,000 in penalties and £32,000 in Capital Gains Tax, plus daily interest. In addition, John had been pressured to make a payment of £23,000 to HMRC after debt enforcement agents attended his father’s home to recover the property. This event caused great distress to John’s father. Despite disagreeing with the charge, John paid it to prevent further distress.

John then applied to Advocate for help, and Keith Gordon of Temple Tax Chambers was first to step up to assist with the case. Keith provided John with urgent advice and drafting to launch his appeal against the First Tier Tribunal finding for HMRC, at the Upper Tribunal. Keith provided pre-trial advice and drafting, assisting John to make all the necessary applications on time.

In 2023, Siobhan Duncan, also of Temple Tax Chambers, aided John in preparation for the Upper Tribunal hearing. At this hearing, counsel was successful on three out of four counts in John’s appeal, challenging an additional ground raised by HMRC which could have cost John even more tax and penalties. Keith and Siobhan continued to assist John at the consequential hearings that followed. Not only were they successful in winning the appeal, but they also managed to secure a huge pro bono costs order of £55,000. This money has been paid to the Access to Justice Foundation, funding organisations like Advocate to help more people like John in need of pro bono assistance. Thanks to Keith and Siobhan, John is no longer at risk of losing his home.

John said after winning the appeal: “I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful work you have done. The help and support has been second to none”.

Reflecting on her and Keith’s work on the case and on the pro bono costs order secured, Siobhan of Temple Tax Chambers said: “To have assisted The Access to Justice Foundation is a true testament to how important pro bono work is as an advocate across all disciplines…it has been an absolute privilege”.

Funds raised through pro bono costs orders help people to access free legal advice. Since 2022 (s.194A Legal Services Act) you can also apply for them in tribunals, as was done in this case. Find out more about pro bono costs orders and where they apply.

Read more of Advocate’s applicant stories.


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