At the outset, I was anxious about starting at a new office, in a new department. Beyond the usual anxieties which befall being the new kid on the block again, there was the obvious concern surrounding treats. At Morton Fraser there is always a steady supply of tasty treats - be that holiday sweets, birthday cake, divisional charity cake bakes, because it is [insert any day of the week] treats etc. - what if, horror of all horrors, my new office did not like treats?
Rest assured, that is not a problem.
As it turns out, it is not unheard of for the department to become embroiled in tax disputes centring around said tasty treats or other food and drink.
For example, 2014 saw the First-Tier Tribunal come to a decision in respect of snowballs (the confectionery and not the ones made of actual snow) and whether these should be treated for tax purposes, in the same manner as teacakes.
Here the judiciary conducted a taste test of various confectioneries including a Jaffa cake, Mr Kipling Bakewell Tart, Waitrose meringue, a tea cake produced by Tunnocks and one produced by Lees, a Lees snowball and a mini jam snow cake. The popular TV show, Great British Bake Off, was referenced in the judgement and the judiciary considered such things as the texture of the mallow, whether one would choose to eat it sitting or standing and whether you would wish a beverage to accompany your treat. After the evidence was devoured and an in-depth analysis into the qualities of the confectionery conducted, the judiciary concluded that snowballs have sufficient characteristics to be classified as a cake.
It is not, of course, all about food here, the HMRC division is a busy division dealing with a wide range of issues in tax tribunals and the Court of Session. The experience I have gained so far has been broad and incredibly beneficial. Not least, I have gained a better understanding of the demands of the public sector and the drivers which effect the decisions of those working within the department.
However, from a public perspective, it is judgements such as these that bring to life the various issues facing a solicitor, or indeed a judge, dealing with issues which could come before a litigation solicitor acting either on behalf of HMRC or on the other side of such an action.
An interesting question would have to be raised, however, should there been an appeal. The evidence has, after all, been eaten.
If you wish to carry out your own taste test and compare your opinion with the decisions in either case, please see the below links:
Do you have questions for me about the traineeship process? Please feel free to get in touch.