Q&As

If a public body (eg HMRC) fails to reach a decision within a reasonable timeframe where no specific deadline applies, could this be grounds for judicial review? At what point does the 'failure to act' occur?

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Published on LexisPSL on 27/09/2016

The following Local Government Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • If a public body (eg HMRC) fails to reach a decision within a reasonable timeframe where no specific deadline applies, could this be grounds for judicial review? At what point does the 'failure to act' occur?
  • Claims for Judicial review
  • Failure to act
  • Time limit
  • Further reading

This Q&A considers whether grounds for judicial review could be established if a public body (such as HMRC) delays or fails to reach a decision within a reasonable timeframe where no specific deadline applies.

Claims for Judicial review

CPR 54.1 states that a 'claim for judicial review' means a claim to review the lawfulness of an enactment or a decision, action or failure to act in relation to the exercise of a public function. Judicial review is generally a remedy of last resort, where there is no alternative remedy (for authority in the context of Tax, see: R v Epping and Harlow General Commissioners ex parte Goldstraw).

Permission to commence judicial review proceedings will not be granted if there is an adequate alternative remedy. In a Tax context, it may be beneficial to first consider whether an application can be made to the First-tier Tribunal for a closure notice. A closure notice requires HMRC to bring a formal end to an enquiry. For further information, see Obtaining a closure notice: A Practical Guide to Tax Appeals.

Judicial review proceedings can be brought against a public body, including HMRC. HMRC may be subject to judicial review if its decision-making process is:

  1. illegal or ultra vires, for instance a breach of statutory requirement, error of law, or a failure to give reasons

  2. irrational, such that no reasonable decision maker could

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