22 Jul 2012

Why can’t we know what has delayed the Rangers Tax Tribunal?

By a quirk of fate I’m dealing with two specific press offices at the moment. One is the advisors to His Excellency President Assad of Syria, the other is the Tribunal Service attached to the judiciary in the UK.

Over the past fortnight I’ve had about the same level of service and information from both.

Which is odd since one is a notorious police state mired in kleptocratic corruption, civil war and generally violent systematic meltdown and the other appears to be British civil servants facing no such difficulties.

Yet try as I might it is next to impossible to puncture the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the First Tier Tax Tribunal where the fate of Rangers is to be determined.

Let’s start with some really simple information which, astonishingly, the judiciary service press office did manage to supply – they told me the names of those running the Big Tax Case hearing.

They are Mr Kenneth Mure QC (judge), Mr Scott Rae and Dr Heidi Poon.

So at that point I thought I’d try another easy question like when exactly did the Tribunal begin?

Mysteriously, we are not allowed to know this. When I asked why, I was informed that:

“The hearing was in private and it is possible that the identities of certain witnesses could be anonymised in the decision notice. So no details of names of witnesses or dates of proceedings can be released at present. The reason dates are confidential is that disclosure could enable identification of who attended.”

So apparently telling us the start and finish date could lead to witnesses being identified. I fail to understand any logic to this and the press office has failed thus far to explain any reason.

Nor can they explain any reason – reasonable or not – why witnesses need to be anonymous in the first place?

It is not a trial it is an appeal in effect. But it is a judicial process and justice is about being seen to be done. The process of appeal courts, crown courts, civil courts, magistrates’ courts, sheriff courts, public inquiries – the judicial process is open. So why are Tax Tribunals so avowedly secret?

Again, no explanation to date.

What many people want to know is what has delayed the Tribunal? We know there’s been a problem because both Tribunals press office and HMRC told Channel 4 News that the decision was expected “shortly after Easter”.

Here we are, three months on or so, not a hint of explanation at this (very expensive) delay. I’m sure there’s a perfectly straightforward explanation. So why can’t we know it?

 12 rangersbanner2 602 Walter Smith   questions for the Rangers legend

Yet again, week in, week out, the Tribunals press office simply ducks the question. In the end they seemed to get a wee bit testy about anyone asking simple questions:

“I’m afraid the tribunal have declined to give any further information in this case until judgment is given,” wrote a press officer last week.

I can tell you they have  received no complaints about the Big Tax Case from the HMRC about which there were various dark rumours in recent months – but as to when any decision will happen – who knows?

So I can only apologise for this rather Kafka-esque tale. I’ve tried and as I have left our shores for a while it seemed only fair to answer people who’ve asked what is going on?

 Of course I haven’t answered, just passed on your questions. I don’t doubt that justice is being done as to whether Rangers FC’s tax arrangements were in order.

But I have very serious doubts that justice is being seen to be done and the taxpayers are owed an explanation.

Follow Alex Thomson on Twitter: @alextomo

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22 reader comments

  1. Dougie says:

    As this is a high profile case it’s beyond reprehension that we the taxpayers of the country are being effectively kept in the dark by those we pay to administer the system.

    Competency issues or by design I wonder?

    It begs the question does it not?

    I also see from another source – “Rangers want the Scottish Premier League to drop their investigation into dual contracts” – it seems the tail wants to wag the dog.

    1. Marty says:

      “It seems the tail wants to wag the dog”? Perhaps you think Rangers should not have the right to make representations.

      As for Mr Thomson asking for the names of tribunal members, some people may try to cause a fuss about such requests but I have no problem with it. I’m certainly in favour of transparency. Though I suppose there have to be limits e.g. the confidentiality relating to the tax affairs of individuals and companies.

      1. Bruce says:

        That’s not what he said and you know it. Its a truly staggering request by Zombie fc – they really are more obsessed with preserving the past of another club than seeking the best deal for their own future.

        But this attempt by Zombie fc is most illuminating. Note, the one thing they didn’t do was say there were no dual contracts and the defunct club has nothing to fear from any investigation. That combined with their attempt to halt the investigation suggests to me that the defunct club is bang to rights on this issue which will lead to the inevitable punishment.

    2. Prince Charles says:

      Spotted a flaw in your title Mr Alex Thompson,tut,tut.
      Why cant we know what has delayed the The Rangers tax tribunal?
      I know it looks funny,so please give “The Rangers”their legal name and give us a laugh.
      That is how it should read in fixtures and football tables and how it will be read when it is pulled from the hat for the Scottish Cup or eventually European competitions.
      I have also complained to the BBC,and I will continue till they get it right.

  2. stevie says:

    Thanks for trying alex

  3. Auldheid says:

    So much secrecy, is somebody being protected by law from the consequences of applying the law? If so who is being protected and by whom.

    How high up the chain does this go?

    A job for (a) Private Eye?

  4. Arthur says:

    keep digging Alex.

  5. lastonetoleaveturnouthelights says:

    It is no surprise that opaqueness is the distinguishing characteristic of the FTT because it has pervaded everything else in this shameful episode. I can only hope that tehdelay means that criminal proceedings are going to beinvolved and not because it suits RFC (deid).

  6. Oliver Cromwell says:

    Almost as quirky as you naming the Scottish journalist who abused you.

    When will we hear that Alex?

  7. Por Cierto says:

    Perhaps maybe one of our Scottish MPs could raise it in Parlaiment. lol

  8. IAIN says:

    keep asking Alex.
    on behalf of the doctors,nurses,police,armed forces and all of the tax paying workers of this nation.Maybe this goes beyound a football team

    1. Marty says:

      Well, people or companies looking to cut their tax bills certainly goes beyond one football team, just to put things in perspective. You may have seen a number of news stories about schemes designed to avoid tax e.g. about Jimmy Carr or about Neil Lennon and the ‘Innovator One’ scheme. Though at least Carr’s scheme seems to have been considered legal by the taxman.

  9. iain says:

    Didn’t the bold Alex have a pop at Ally McCoist for wanting those responsible for the illega transfer embargo named?

    Secrecy was fine then but bnot now?
    What are the odds?

  10. Stuart says:

    Its quite simple Alex. Can i suggest that you advise your contacts that you are “On The Square” and that you can indeed “Tie a Knot”
    This will ensure that you will get full cooperation and be able to escape any drink driving penalties.

  11. P J Fox says:

    You wont break Scotland, Alex.

    It’s a Protestant club for a Protestant people.

    The best wee sectarian country in the world.

    You English just dont get it lol

  12. Colin says:

    Masonic cover up

  13. Baza says:

    Keep digging Alex,

    Hopefully you will get the answers our main stream media refuse to ask questions about.


  14. Scotus says:

    The judgement is made as as my sparrow was informed.
    He was told,’It will surprise nobody.’
    That can only mean that it is a finding against the gers.
    It is often the case that a draft is sent to the parties for them to have a chance to correct trivial errors and this can result in the publishment being delayed for political reasons.

  15. ajb says:

    Although I do not understand the delay and would prefer to see my tax being spent appropriately (and others’ tax being paid!) I think the rationale behind the non-disclosure of dates is pretty straightforward.

    By disclosing dates it would allow anyone with access to the “signing in” book (a requirement for fire safety/evacuation) to identify who was there on a specific date and draw up a shortlist.

    In managing such matters I have always ensured that the previous day’s log is removed and archived and I would imagine most buildings would do the same.

    If it’s not archived anyone coming in can gain what is essentially private information about another individual (their whereabouts, possible participation in certain activities, car registration etc).

    If the court or building where the witnesses attended adopts this practice of archiving then there would be a very limited number of individuals who would have access to this information, i.e. the staff.

    It doesn’t instil a great level of confidence in procedure if they are withholding this information because they don’t trust their own staff who I imagine would be subject to a disciplinary process if they were to disclose such information.

  16. Chewy Lamb says:

    Ahh, I love the quality Scottish newspapers and there excuse for journalists, five days after this article was written the same one appears in Daily Rangers. I hope you invoice them Alex.

  17. Prince Charles says:

    When the verdict sees the light of day,there will be the mother of all public backlashes against Rangers.
    Non-footballing members of the public,from outside Scotland,politicians of all persuasions and trades unions leaders will,rightly,vent their anger at this case.
    It is obviously being held back till after the worlds press goes home after the 2012 Olympics.
    Mr Alex Thompson,you will need to hire a thousand assistants to cope with the volume of posts for that blog.Have fun.

  18. Prince Charles says:

    Start the countdown for Rangers fate in September.The house of Commons returns on the 3rd of September 2012.Scotus post is spot on,it is being held back for political reasons.The Coalition can roll it out at their leisure and for their gain.And if they got tore into the public for paying plumbers in cash,what will they,verbally at least,do to Rangers?

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