Saturday, 29 June 2013

The cost of a frivolous judicial review

Perhaps some people reading this blog entry have seen my previous posts on the UK Uncut Legal Action v. HMRC case? I've been pretty critical of misleading statements by UK Uncut when trying to raise funds to cover the legal costs of a pointless court case which they lost. Here's a quick reminder of the basis for the judicial review from their skeleton argument:
8. The Claimant does not seek an order quashing the settlement itself. Simon J refused permission to seek a quashing order because of the potential effect on the Interested Parties (see [2012] EWHC 2017 (Admin) at [14] [that's two Goldman Sachs group companies by the way]). However, HMRC continues to assert that that it acted lawfully and that it would be entitled to act in a similar way in the future. This claim is brought to correct that misapprehension.
Yep, it's grandstanding with a view to giving HMRC a bollocking, but at what cost?
9. The Claimant is a campaigning group. It campaigns against the harmful effects of tax avoidance and the use of tax havens. It supports the protection of health, education and social welfare services funded by taxation. It brings this case with the assistance of a protective costs order limiting its liability to £20,000 (which has been fundraised from the public, the vast majority from numerous individual donors offering small sums).
And HMRC's costs in all of this? Well, I requested that information under the Freedom of Information Act which they declined due to the costs involved. However, they were kind enough to provide some information that they had to hand:
In litigation HMRC does record some of its activities which are chargeable in accordance with Civil Procedure Rules. HMRC Solicitor’s Office calculates some chargeable litigation costs using the Guideline Hourly Rates which are published by the Judiciary. HMRC's chargeable costs for this case amounted to approximately £149,000, of which approximately £51,000 related to external costs.
So if we assume that the full £20k was awarded to HMRC, UK Uncut, campaigners against government spending cuts, have cost a government department (so ultimately me and you as the taxpayer) something north of £129,000. Good job, well done.

Full HMRC response to my FoI request is below with personal information removed:

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