Judge: HMRC pursuit of vulnerable man ‘outrageous’

A JUDGE has labelled the treatment of a dyslexic painter and decorator with the mind of a child by tax authorities as “outrageous”.
'Outrageous' HMRC: Slammed by judge. Picture: TSPL'Outrageous' HMRC: Slammed by judge. Picture: TSPL
'Outrageous' HMRC: Slammed by judge. Picture: TSPL

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had relentlessly pursued John Clark, from Dunfermline, insisting he owed almost £18,000 in back tax.

But a judge has now ordered cancellation of the bill and slammed HMRC for failing to make the slightest concession for his acute vulnerability.

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Mr Clark, of Carnock, suffers from dyslexia and his learning difficulties are so severe he has the mental age of a 12-year-old.

Working part-time as a painter and decorator, he managed to keep on top of his paperwork until he split from his wife in 2003.

She died in 2013 and Mr Clark ended up as sole carer for their primary school age daughter, said Judge Kenneth Mure.

The family home was devastated by fire in 2006 and he and his daughter could not return there for almost a year.

Despite all that, HMRC hit him with an income tax demand of £17,779, covering six years in which he was accused of failing to declare his earnings.

His daughter penned a written plea to the tax office on her father’s behalf but it was sent back unopened and marked, “sent to wrong department’.

He visited the tax office in Dunfermline three times, on one occasion taking 20 minutes to write down just four pleading lines.

Mr Clark, who sank into depression after his wife left him, denied he had earned anything like enough to be liable for tax, but HMRC was immovable.

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Granting his appeal, Judge Mure condemned HMRC’s treatment of Mr Clark as “too narrow, inadequate and lacking in any consideration of his peculiar vulnerability”.

Describing Mr Clark as “an entirely credible witness”, the judge added: “He was frank, candid and entirely lacking in guile”.