There are two bodies of tax appeal Commissioners;
the Special Commissioners and the General Commissioners. Appeals
on most tax issues are made to the General Commissioners with
the taxpayer being entitled to elect for his or her appeal to
be heard by the Special Commissioners.
Both bodies have certain common features and
there is a substantial cross over between their responsibilities.
An appeal from the Special or General Commissioners is to the
High Court on a point of law.
The General Commissioners; these are unpaid
lay volunteers appointed by the Lord Chancellor to local areas,
known as Divisions, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In
Scotland, General Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary
of State. People appointed to be General Commissioners are representative
of the local community and many are also magistrates. There are
nearly 4,000 General Commissioners who are organised into 441
Divisions. Each Division of General Commissioners is supported
by a Clerk who is normally legally qualified. The Clerks handle
the administration relating to appeal meetings and advise the
General Commissioners on law and procedure. The General Commissioners
already have experience of appeals covering the entire tax spectrum
from straightforward issues involving entitlement to basic allowances
to the application of legislation in complicated situations. So,
for example, they will have experience in determining the existence
and duration of a contract of employment, a common area of difficulty
for SSP and SMP as well as for NICs.
The Special Commissioners; these are appointed
by the Lord Chancellor. The principal difference between the Special
and General Commissioners is that the Specials are legally qualified.
Because of this legal qualification they hear, for the most part,
the more complex and technical appeals. The Special Commissioners
are based in London but travel to hear appeals in the major cities
and will consider requests to hear appeals in any town or city
where suitable accommodation is available.