V5.491 Application of the European Convention on Human Rights ('ECHR')
The Human Rights Act 1998 came into force, with certain exceptions, on 9 November 1998. The act requires that1 'so far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights2'.
ECHR art 6—Right to a fair trial—applicability to VAT cases
Every person is entitled to 'a fair and public hearing' … 'in the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him'3. In terms of VAT, questions then arise as to whether an appeal to a tribunal amounts to the 'determination of his civil rights', and if not, whether any of the penalty provisions within VATA 1994 amount to 'criminal charges'.
Determination of civil rights and obligations
In Ferrazzini v Italy4, the European Court of Human Rights held that tax disputes fell outside the scope of the expression 'civil rights and obligations', despite any pecuniary effects they produced for the taxpayer. It would therefore appear that the ECHR does not offer any protection to a taxpayer in respect of a tax dispute, unless that dispute amounts to a 'criminal charge against him'. However, a tribunal5 has held that Ferrazzini is not applicable to UK VAT law, with the result that the appropriate provisions of art 6 apply to any VAT appeal. On the other hand, another tribunal6 has stated 'it is settled law that Article
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