A staunchly religious couple have scored a landmark win over the tax authorities.

Beekeepers Graham and Abigail Blackburn, from Bodmin, Cornwall, run a small business making honey and were informed that would need to file their VAT returns online.

But the couple objected – because they are devout members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, who abjure the use of modern technology.

Now, a tax tribunal has ruled that by denying Mr and Mrs Blackburn an exemption they have also violated their right to manifest their religion.

Mr Blackburn informed the First Tier Tribunal that he and his wife shun the use of computers, televisions, the internet and mobile phones in their home.

His view is that some TV programmes and websites are “contrary to the Bible’s teachings” and he wants to the do his upmost to “protect his children from bad influences”.

Mr Blackburn also that he believes people are obsessed with their mobile phones and that electronic communication blinds the minds of non-believers, leaving them with no time for religion.

The Blackburns believe that Christ’s second coming is forthcoming and see the internet as an intrusion of “worldliness” into their lives of “righteousness”.

Since April last year, most businesses have been required by law to file their VAT returns online, and HMRC representatives believed that the couple’s refusal to comply was by personal preference and nothing to do with their religious beliefs.

However, Tribunal Judge Barbara Mosedale ruled that in refusing to exempt the beekeepers from filing their returns online, HMRC had breached their right to freely manifest their religion under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

She said that justifications put forward by HMRC for refusing the exemption were “clearly insufficient”.

The tribunal verdict means the couple will now be permitted to file their VAT returns on paper, subject to any appeal by HMRC.

Displeased with HMRC’s decision? You are able to challenge HMRC’s decision at the First Tier Tax Tribunal.

For confidential advice on how to take your case to the First Tier Tax Tribunal, call KinsellaTax on 0800 471 4546 to discuss your situation in detail.

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