Last Friday, I was very privileged to represent the tax judiciary of the United Kingdom in the first online seminar to be held by the International Association of Tax Judges. Alongside a panel of tax judges from the US, Brazil, Mexico, Germany and France (and watched by an audience of about 70 judges from countries as far afield as Canada and South Korea) we discussed our different national experiences of the challenges which Covid-19 has brought to our courts.
There was interesting discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of remote hearings as opposed to conventional face to face hearings. In the UK, the Tax Chamber was already running a video hearings ‘pilot’, and was able to move quickly to widespread adoption of the Tribunals Video Platform (TVP) and the Cloud Video Platform (CVP).
My impression is that the Tax Chamber in the UK has been one of the front-runners internationally in taking-up and using of this technology.
I have now been involved – both as judge and representative – in two fairly long trials (6 days and 3 days). Each involved the giving and testing of witness evidence, and a large amount of documents. Speaking personally, my experience has been that these trials have been as fair and just to the participants as if the trials had been held face to face.
But of course, every case is different, and there will always be some cases where a remote hearing will not be suitable – e.g. if a party does not have reliable internet access. But even a global pandemic has not stood in the way of taxpayers all round the world continuing to have access to their national tax courts.
Christopher McNall specialises in disputes about tenanted and freehold farms and land (and especially agricultural tenancies under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986), taxation (especially of agricultural land), proprietary estoppel, and inheritance.
He has appeared in many leading agricultural and tax cases in the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Agricultural Lands Tribunal, and the First-tier Tribunal. He is Chairperson of the Agricultural Lands Tribunal for Wales, a Deputy District Judge, and a fee-paid Judge of the Tax and Property Chambers of the First-tier Tribunal.
Christopher was Consultant Editor for the ‘Agricultural Holdings and Allotments’ title in the 2018 edition of Halsbury’s Laws of England and writes the ‘View from the Bar’ column for the Agricultural and Rural Affairs section of Practical Law. His book, ‘A Practical Guide to Agricultural Law and Tenancies’, was published recently.