Dickinson v Abel [1969] 1 All ER 484

Dickinson v Abel [1969] 1 All ER 484

Taxpayer not liable to income tax for money received following conditional promise


The defendant taxpayer was approached by the representative of a company which wished to buy farmland with which the taxpayer had a familial connection. The taxpayer is reported to have asked “What’s in it for me?” and was offered £10,000. The taxpayer received this money despite not offering any services in relation to the eventual sale.


The taxpayer was assessed for income tax on the sum of £10,000. However, at first instance, it was held that there was no contractual basis for the £10,000 payment. The sum was not a “payment for services” and, therefore, the assessment for income tax ought accordingly to be discharged. The Revenue appealed against this decision.


The High Court dismissed the appeal. It held that the evidence was inconsistent with a contractual consensus, either express or tacit, between the taxpayer and the company which purchased the farmland. There was no evidence that the £10,000 was paid in return for some specified service made by the taxpayer. All that existed between the taxpayer and the company was a conditional promise made without valuable consideration. The Court, as an appellate tribunal, was precluded upon the basis of well-established principles from going against the findings of fact made at first instance. Accordingly, the payment of £10,000 was not chargeable in terms of income tax. It was irrelevant in determining whether there was a contractual consensus that the taxpayer believed that he had a moral right in the land in question. If fact, he had no interest in that land.

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