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Will contractor accountants take part in alternative disputes resolution pilot?

Will contractor accountants take part in alternative disputes resolution pilot?

IT contractor accountants may be interested to learn that HMRC launched an alternative disputes resolution pilot scheme for SMEs in North Wales and the North West of England last week.

Under the pilot, disputes arising from Revenue compliance checks will go in front of independent facilitators for resolution. The idea being to reduce the cost of the dispute for both sides and avoid a lengthy tribunal hearing.

A pilot scheme aimed at diverting cases from a tax tribunal last year was successful in at least partially solving 60% of the disputes it handled.

The assistant director for local compliance at the Revenue, Jim Stevenson, explained that communication problems often exist between HMRC and the taxpayer. The facilitator will make sure both parties fully understand the facts and arguments surrounding the dispute. The aim is to get a satisfactory resolution to the problem, and if that is not possible, to solve as many issues as possible.

John Cassidy, a PKF tax partner, said there needs to be a guarantee that the facilitators are independent. SMEs will avoid the ADR unless they can be assured they will receive a fair hearing. He went on to suggest that entrepreneurs may have more faith in the scheme if the SME’s tax advisers mediated the resolution procedure rather than HMRC facilitators.

The CIOT’s Andrew Gotch believes the pilot is essential to the overall success of ADR and urged SMEs to take advantage of it if possible. He stressed that the process is voluntary and neither side will come out worse off. In fact, evidence suggest that participants emerge with either a resolution or at least a better understanding of the other side’s position.

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Image: mmm fishy by jelene

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