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HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are obliged to keep individuals’ tax affairs secret – but confidentiality generally does not survive an appeal. Exactly that happened in one case in which well-known actor Martin Clunes sought to set off the cost of cosmetic treatment against his Income Tax was refused an anonymity order.
The actor argued that the treatment was wholly and exclusively necessary for his trade. HMRC however refused to allow it as a tax deductible expense. During a preliminary hearing of the actor’s appeal against that decision, he sought to persuade the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) that there was no good reason why he should be named in proceedings that were likely to cause him embarrassment. He was concerned that his celebrity persona might be damaged and that revelations about his treatment would make him the butt of mockery and jokes.
The FTT emphasised that the actor’s appeal had nothing to do with tax avoidance. In refusing to make the order sought, however, it noted the importance of justice being done in public. Despite expressing some sympathy for him, it noted that those who are not in the public eye might not like their friends or neighbours to know about their finances but would have little chance of being granted anonymity.
Cosmetic treatment for one actor might be considered necessary whereas, for another, it might be viewed as a vain indulgence. In resolving the matter, the FTT would have to determine where on that scale the facts of the case fell. It would thus be necessary to consider the actor’s particular characteristics and it would not be sufficient to identify him simply as an actor.