General: Ferry engineer wins legal battle against taxman over seafarer concessions
Posted on 27.05.2012 - 17:56 EDT in GENERAL NEWS by jamesmc
A ferry engineer has won a legal battle over the taxman about offshore concessions for sea-farers.
Ian Cameron refused to give way after HM Revenue and Customs told him he did not qualify for more than £70,000 in offshore tax breaks granted to seamen.
Mr Cameron was chief engineer on the Hjatland ferry, between Aberdeen and the Northern Isles, for more than 25 years.
He was told the concession, given to sea-farers who are onboard ships outside UK territorial waters at midnight on any given day, could not apply to Mr Cameron as his ferry was not bound for a foreign port.
At a hearing in London's High Court on Tuesday, Mr Justice Wyn Williams ruled that Mr Cameron had a "legitimate expectation" that the tax break would apply to him.
The judge said the tax authorities had, for many years, reassured seamen that they could qualify for "a day of absence" from the UK even if their ship cast off from a British berth before midnight and even if their voyage did not take in a foreign port.
Revenue and Customs had never informed Mr Cameron - who worked on board cargo vessels before tending the Hjatland's engines - or other seamen, of a change of policy or that that "broad concession" was being withdrawn.
Mr Cameron had "reasonably relied" on the tax authorities' published policy and had "acted to his detriment" in leaving his job on board the Hjatland earlier than he would otherwise have done, in the firm belief he was entitled to the tax break worth £72,936.
Revenue and Customs, the judge ruled, had acted unlawfully when they "disallowed" the entirety of Mr Cameron's claim to Seafarer's Earnings Deduction at the end of the 2006 tax year.
A spokesman from the Nautilis International trade union said the ruling was "very, very critical in terms of the interpretation of how those rules work in practice".
He said: "It's good news. This goes back many years in some of the cases.
"For the seafarers involved we are talking considerable sums of money.
"We are forever having to defend what is seen as a particularly essential piece of protection for merchant seafarers in this country.
"The ramifications for other people are important."