During his time at King’s College London, I shared a corridor with Joe Tomlinson and have very fond memories of the coffee-breaks we took together, as unprofessional in terms of frequency though they were! When he informed me that the Administrative Law in the Common Law World blog would host several reviews of my recently published book Tax Authority Advice and the Public, I was ecstatic. Our past conversations assured me that he would do a great job putting it all together. And beyond the fact that the blog is a fantastic resource, it presented a great opportunity to advertise the book. On account of being published in early April 2020, marketing occasions have been limited.
The book argues that public authorities have a role, derived from the rule of law, in advising the public about their legal rights and obligations. It outlines a framework for assessing whether this role is being fulfilled, applies it to the provision of advice by the UK’s tax authority (HMRC) and proposes some practical reforms for the system of HMRC advice. It builds upon a doctorate (supervised by Prof Judith Freedman and Prof Rebecca Williams) which considered more narrowly the role of HMRC soft law. “Advice” to that end encompasses more than just soft law instruments promulgated to a general class of people and includes individual interactions.
Two wonderful reviews of the book have been undertaken for this blog by Prof Steven Vaughan (University College London) and Prof Hans Gribnau (Tilburg University). Vaughan approaches the book with the perspective of a lawyer concerned with regulation, focusing on what non-tax lawyers can gain from reading it. Gribnau is characteristically colourful and thought-provoking meanwhile, coming at the review from the perspective of a tax lawyer keenly interested in legal philosophy. Though I was offered the opportunity to reply to the reviews, I would only make one comment about the basis of the normative framework that the book adopts. The thin account of the rule of law is deliberately chosen because it is universally accepted that laws ought to act as guidance: allowing individuals to understand the legal consequences of their actions is unarguably a good thing. By building upon such a solid basis, the hope is that the analysis of the book and ultimately the reforms that it proposes cannot be lightly tossed aside by those with power (policymakers, judges, politicians etc) in relation HMRC advice.
I am immensely grateful to the editors of Administrative Law in the Common Law World, Prof Vaughan, Prof Gribnau and Dr Tomlinson.
Stephen Daly is a Lecturer in Corporate Law at King’s College London