Patient Confidentiality Trumps Tax Inquiry

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HMRC2A general practitioner has scored an important victory over the tax authorities after the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) ruled that demands that she disclose her appointments diary as part of an inquiry into her Income Tax affairs were unreasonable.

Dr Kathleen Long expressed serious concerns about patient confidentiality when HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) required sight of the diary, which contained names and addresses of hundreds of patients and details of their treatment.

In allowing her appeal, the FTT described Dr Long as a ‘wholly credible and reliable’ witness who had in no way sought to be difficult or obstructive but had co-operated fully with HMRC throughout. The diaries contained no financial information and the idea that they would in some way aid the inquiry was ‘remote and speculative’.

Dr Long acts as locum GP on the Isles of Cumbrae, Islay and Braemar, and also has a private practice in Glasgow where she provides hypnotherapy, acupuncture and and cosmetic services, including migraine treatments, to paying clients. She has been heavily involved in teaching and course development with the British Society of Medical and Dental Hypnosis in Scotland.

Her trouble began when HMRC launched an inquiry into her tax self-assessment for 2010/11. After checking her figures, she volunteered that there had been a small ‘cash recording error’ in the return. The mistake was ‘unwitting’ and represented only about 5 per cent of her total £190,000 income.