It all started when I was an internal auditor and my employment was terminated by email with effect from the following day. As part of my every-day role and responsibility, I had raised protected disclosures to my employer at the time following the agreed internal escalation policy. However, purely as a result of doing my job, I ended up defending myself in tribunals
Some would label me a whistleblower or a troublemaker. However, this is not the case. I simply followed the agreed internal escalation procedure to raise genuine concerns to senior management on issues that I had identified that could seriously damage the company’s reputation and cause serious risks to the operations. I also gave recommendations on how to rectify them.
After over one and a half years, in January 2011 I won unfair and wrongful dismissal, albeit not for having raised protected disclosures. Instead, the Tribunal said in the last hearing that it found that my style of writing might have been the cause of the termination of my employment. Nevertheless, the Tribunal did recognise that I had raised protected disclosures.
In 2009, prior to the Employment Tribunal I had been awarded interim relief. The legal point that I successfully challenged at the FTT against HMRC was the taxation of interim relief payments.
Interim relief is a legal protection under PIDA (Public Interest Disclosure Act) to protect those who raise protected disclosures, but also to protect other people when they are dismissed whilst they carry out activities such as:
- a trade union member;
- a health and safety representative;
- an employee representative for the purposes of TUPE consultations; or
- a trustee of an occupational pension fund.
An Employment Tribunal awards these payments, but up to the point where I successfully challenged them they were taxed in the same way as a standard payroll payment. I challenged this on the grounds that they are not standard earnings as a result of employment. Rather, they are a compensation payment that employers need to pay where unfair termination of employment is most likely due to having raised protected disclosures. So the legal precedent that I established benefits many people.
I would like to highlight some key facts on my tax case against HMRC:
- I was a lay individual, that was, I had no legal or tax advisor helping me,
- I had fought against HMRC for three years and had brought them to a First Tier Tax Tribunal all on my own,
- I established court law in UK with my case despite not being a lawyer
Challenging this narrow legal point was done in my spare time, without overly interfering with my private or professional life. However, my abilities to manage my time and remain focused were tested. As you can imagine, resilience was mandatory and I clearly strengthened mine during three years of receiving HMRC letters rejecting my legal argument. Despite many of their letters being repetitive, my responses were always polite, objective and never discredited the sender or HMRC.
Some would say I am now a famous person as my landmark case was mentioned in several tax magazines and websites. I do not feel famous. Fame was not the point. I feel that I did what I had to do because I have the capabilities to do so. This narrow and legal point made a lot of sense to me and it felt fair and reasonable. That is what I fought for, on my own, without any support.