Rulings of general application to all persons
HMRC make a practice of issuing rulings on liability matters from time to time to take account of changes in the legislation, decisions of the courts and tribunals, and to reflect a change of opinion regarding the application of the legislation. Rulings having general application to persons as a whole are publicised in VAT Notes1, VAT information sheets2, press releases3 and/or business briefs (now Revenue and Customs Briefs)4. The method of obtaining a ruling is described on the www.gov.uk website5.
HMRC's policy on changed rulings, and the issue of Business Briefs (now Revenue and Customs Briefs), is set out in Business Brief 16/036. Tax overpaid may be repaid, subject to the provisions concerning unjust enrichment7, and tax underpaid waived if a person, having taken all reasonable steps to keep himself informed about changes, is unaware of a change affecting his liability. HMRC clarified their position in relation to changed rulings in Business Brief 28/048, where they state that they will apply the following principles—
“Customs will not expect or require businesses to correct past declaration errors, which were made on the basis of Customs interpretation of the law. Businesses will only be required to apply the new interpretation of the law from a current or future date, which we will announce. Where the new interpretation means that additional tax is due, this date will normally be after every registered trader has been informed of the
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