The Tax Appeals Commission is an independent statutory body tasked with the responsibility of hearing and deciding upon appeals against assessments and decisions issued by the Revenue Commissioners.
Since its establishment in 2016, all appeals of Revenue tax assessments have been directed straight to the Tax Appeals Commission, departing from the previous practice where appeals were lodged directly with Revenue. This change of appeal procedures and the establishment of the Commission as an impartial mediator represented significant progress for Ireland in guaranteeing fair resolutions in conflicts related to taxation.
In the current system, any Irish taxpayer holds the right to challenge Revenue’s decisions about their income and gain a revised assessment or tax estimate using the Tax Appeals Commission. Additionally, when making an appeal to the Tax Appeals Commission, individuals have the option to work with Revenue to potentially settle appeals outside the TAC through mutual agreement, which is a common resolution pathway. Opting for a settlement during the process could even be beneficial depending on the circumstances of your case, particularly considering that, in the last three years, only 23% of appeals have been decided in favour of the taxpayer.
It’s important to note that the Tax Appeals Commission isn’t the only recourse available to dissatisfied taxpayers. They have the option to explore alternative legal pathways, such as pursuing a judicial review of Revenue’s conduct, requesting a review by a different Revenue official or an external non-Revenue reviewer, or lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman. This framework exists to offer taxpayers various avenues to address their grievances. However, this article will primarily concentrate on the Tax Appeals Commission.
 114 out of 491 cases have been found in favour of the taxpayer in the years 2020 – 2022 as per Michael McGrath source; https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023-01-18/315/
Tax Appeals Commission, How to AppealAll taxpayers have the right to challenge any tax assessment issued by Revenue if they deem it to be inaccurate, by appealing to the Tax Appeals Commission (TAC) within 30 days of the assessment’s issuance. However, the appeals process consists of several stages.
1. Give Notice to the Commission
The initial step in the TAC appeal process involves completing and submitting the Notice of Appeal to the Commission. This document must be filed within 30 days of Revenue raising the assessment. The TAC rarely extends this time limit beyond 30 days except in exceptional cases. Therefore, it’s crucial for taxpayers to be aware of this deadline if considering an appeal and to seek guidance from appropriate advisors promptly.
Crafting the Notice of Appeal meticulously is vital to encompass all grounds for appeal. This step is crucial to avoid losing the opportunity to present specific arguments in the subsequent appeal hearing. If these arguments fall outside the specified grounds of appeal, they cannot be raised at hearing as the opposing party might lack sufficient time for adequate preparation. There exists a rare exception: if the taxpayer can demonstrate that stating the ground at the time of notice was impractical or impossible.
Given the implications of these common pitfalls seeking legal advice early on is advisable to optimise the chance of success.
2. Admission of Appeal
The Notice of Appeal is then forwarded by the Commission to Revenue, who have the option to either agree or object to the appeal moving forward in the process.
If Revenue decides to object to the appeal, they must express this objection in writing, outlining their reasons, within 30 days after receiving the copy of the Notice of Appeal. After this time frame the reasons behind the objection are then provided to the taxpayer, who is given an opportunity to respond in writing to Revenue’s objections within 14 days after receiving notice of Revenue’s objection sent to the TAC.
In cases where Revenue raises no objection to the appeal’s consideration, the TAC still assesses several factors, including whether:
- The appeal has been properly initiated under the Tax Act
- The appeal is ‘frivolous’
- The appeal is submitted after the specified timeline, and if so, whether there are justifiable reasons for its lateness.
If a decision is made not to accept an appeal, both the taxpayer and Revenue will be formally informed in writing by the commission , specifying the reasons behind the non-acceptance of the appeal. S.949(1) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997
3. Case Management Conferences
At any point during the appeal process, the TAC has the authority to mandate a pre-hearing meeting, which serves as a Case Management Conference (CMC). While not a universal requirement, most cases will call for a CMC. These can be conducted in person or online. The Commissioners may also authorise multiple case management conferences if required to facilitate the prompt and fair completion of the proceedings.
During this Conference, the current status of the appeal is evaluated, and the subsequent steps leading up to the hearing are discussed, if the hearing is still required. The purpose of the CMC is to facilitate the early involvement of the Appeal Commissioner to review the proceedings up to that point and to clarify any outstanding issues. Furthermore, this process aims at resolving the appeal without the necessity of holding a hearing.
If the Commission decides to hold a CMC, they must notify both parties of the meeting details 14 days before the scheduled conference.
At this point, both parties have the opportunity to submit an application for directions that they intend to propose. Directions are binding instructions or conditions given by the Commissioners that must be compiled with after they are implemented. Some common examples of directions are:
- To delay the appeal for a fixed period
- Give a fixed timeline for exchanging evidence
- Orders for document disclosure
Along with the application for the directions the parties must give a brief explanation of the reasons justifying the necessity and appropriateness of such directions for the fair and efficient resolution of the appeal. Additionally, they must provide a copy of this application to the other party.
During any stage, a legal representative may seek permission from the Appeal Commissioner for private discussions with their clients.
Statement of Case
Upon admission of an appeal, the TAC typically issues a directive for the taxpayer to furnish a Statement of Case. Although it can very typically the Statement is expected within 60 days from the date of the directive.
The Statement of Case follows a specific structure and typically includes;
1. The Relevant Facts of the CaseThis is the initial opportunity for both the taxpayer and Revenue to outline, in detail, the pertinent facts related to the case.
2. The Legal Basis for their PointsThis should include references to statutory provisions and case law that support each party’s position in the appeal. Typically, taxpayers reserve the right to cite additional sections as part of the hearing bundle submissions. Given the technical nature of this element typically it is best done alongside a legal expert.
3. Mention of Potential Witness EvidenceHere parties may indicate potential witness evidence within the Statement of Case. However, the specific details or identification of these witnesses and a summary of what they will testify to are typically communicated separately and at a later stage.
4. Agreed or Disputed Facts
There might be an Agreed Statement of Facts which have been settled between the taxpayer and Revenue. However, in many instances, many facts may be in dispute.
The taxpayer is usually instructed to provide their Statement of Case to Revenue before the Revenue delivers their version, as they may not be aware of the grounds of the Appeal.
When filing the Statement of Case, there is the option to request a private hearing, if either party feels the case requires that (TAC appeals are generally conducted in public). If the TAC grants a private hearing, the decision is likely to be redacted to protect the parties’ identities. However, the case’s facts might become public if the TAC’s decision is subsequently appealed on a point of law.
5. Preparing for a hearingIf CMCs have not resolved the case and there is no agreed upon private settlement it will then become time for both parties to prepare for a hearing.
The primary and foremost consideration before the hearing is recognizing that the burden of proof rests on the taxpayer. Hence, it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to provide evidence that substantiates their case and effectively meets that burden. This necessitates the taxpayer entering the hearing equipped with substantial evidence and well-defined points of appeal.
Preparation of an outline of arguments is also necessary pre-hearing. This outline constitutes a comprehensive legal submission that details the taxpayer’s legal argument, referencing relevant statutory provisions and case law.
As for the sequence, it might occur that the taxpayer initially presents their Outline of Arguments to the TAC (along with a copy sent to Revenue), allowing Revenue the opportunity to respond within a predetermined time frame. While the timing for exchanging Outline of Arguments can differ in each case, typically, these are shared some weeks before a scheduled hearing date. However, this process may vary based on the agreement reached between the involved parties and the TAC.
The final submission to the TAC includes providing a hearing bundle, which will consist of all documents you intend to present and all legal authorities you intend to use to support your appeal.
Initially, a List of Documents must be submitted to the TAC, identifying the documents that both the taxpayer and Revenue plan to rely on during the hearing. This submission is a joint effort by the taxpayer and Revenue. It culminates in an Agreed Book of Documents that will be presented at the hearing.
Additionally, a separate Agreed Book of Legal Authorities which will be relied upon must also be provided to the TAC.
The timing for delivering the List of Documents and Agreed Legal Authorities can differ, but generally, this step is taken at least one month before a scheduled.
6. Attending the Hearing
Throughout the hearing process, both the taxpayer and Revenue have the option to be represented by external advisors who advocate on their behalf or else choose to present their arguments personally. In both scenarios, each party is open to questioning by the Appeal Commissioner.
Witnesses typically give oral evidence during the hearing, with opportunities for each party to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses. While written witness statements might be prepared and exchanged based on agreed directions, it’s uncommon for a statement to be accepted as evidence without the witness providing oral testimony. Expert witnesses also usually provide oral evidence, with expert reports exchanged before the hearing. Hearings can span several days or weeks based on the volume and complexity of witness evidence.
7. Awaiting the Commission’s DeterminationAccording to the Taxes Consolidation Act determinations can be delivered orally but must be later put in writing. Under the Act these at determinations should be reasoned, detailing factual findings.
Parties must be notified of a determination (and any right of appeal) within 21 days after the appeal is decided.
Subsequently, the determination is to be made public within 90 days, even in cases where the hearing was private (with both parties having the right to redact the draft determination provided by the TAC). There isn’t a fixed timeframe for the TAC to deliver its determination, so timeframes can vary depending on the case’s complexity and the TAC’s available resources.
 S.949 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997