Access to justice before the Special Commissioners of Income Tax in the nineteenth century
University of Exeter
British Tax Review
Sweet and Maxwell
The judicial appellate function of the Special Commissioners of Income Tax was given to them when income tax was reintroduced by Sir Robert Peel in 1842. Over the next 100 years this initially minor function gradually came to dominate the work of the tribunal. In constitution and nature the Special Commissioners were unequivocally an arm of the Executive, a dispute resolution body made up of paid civil servants, but nevertheless they established themselves as a body with predominantly judicial functions within the highly specialised field of tax. While the notion of access to justice was not articulated as a discrete concept, its principal constituent elements of simplicity, cheapness, speed, proximity and effectiveness of dispute resolution were recognised as desirable qualities within the nineteenth century legal process. They were equally desirable in the fiscal process, perhaps even more so, since the aim of that process was to ensure that government enjoyed a constant and predictable stream of public revenue. This paper examines the extent to which the Special Commissioners in their appellate function were, both in fact and in perception, accessible to the taxpaying public in the context of practical litigation and of the esoteric nature of tax and of the fiscal process.
This research forms part of a wider project on The Legal Protection of Taxpayers' Rights, 1780-1914 funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which support is gratefully acknowledged.
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B.T.R. 2005, 1, 114-141