On 8 October 2019, the Court of Appeal9 held that a statement in HMRC’s published manuals, although a statement as to HMRC’s opinion of the law, was sufficiently clear, unambiguous and devoid of relevant qualification to produce a legitimate expectation.

The Court considered whether, on the facts, a change in HMRC’s stated opinion would be so unfair as to constitute an abuse of power. The Court held to be relevant the fact that the taxpayer in question had engaged a professional tax adviser. In the Court’s view, this affected the taxpayer’s ability to claim to have relied on HMRC’s published opinion.

In view of the fact that the taxpayer had engaged a professional advisor, and that the published HMRC statement was merely an opinion, the Court held that there was insufficient unfairness to constitute an abuse of power in this case. 

The decision can be viewed here.