A SOLICITOR who helped a family defeat UK tax authorities in court says the result could be “huge” for refugees.

Claire Cochrane’s clients were last night celebrating a landmark judgement at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which found that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had acted unlawfully.

The win, by a family represented by Govanhill Law Centre - part of Govan Law Centre - is understood to be the first successful social security test case of its kind.

The couple secured refugee status in late 2019 – six years after first coming to the UK for protection. Last January they applied for child tax credit backdated to their arrival in 2013, something refused by authorities. 

The Court of Session has now ruled that was wrong and told Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to consider a fresh claim.

The judgement comes during Refugee Festival Scotland.

READ MORE: HMRC loses child tax credits case as refugee family make legal history

Last night Cochrane said her clients Ali and Saima Adnan, are “delighted”. She told The National: “For a lot of people there is a long gap between applying for asylum and having their application granted. They can be stuck in a limbo for years where they are not allowed to work or able to claim mainstream benefits and they’re having to scrape by on minimal rates of support. To secure their rights to get that lump sum backdated will be huge for people.”

The result in the judicial review came one day ahead of a similar case set to be heard in England today.

Although tax credits were abolished and replaced with Universal Credit on 1 February 2019, the law provided that particular groups of claimants – including asylum seekers – had preserved rights if their claim was for a period that included January 31, 2019.

UK social security law preserved the right to claim child tax credits from the original date of a claim for asylum in the UK, so long as a claim was made within one month of the date of refugee status.

HMRC argued that no such claim could ever be made as it was no longer possible to claim tax credits since the roll out of Universal Credit.

At the Court of Session, Lord Tyre said HMRC had it wrong, agreeing that the agency’s position was “unlawful and irrational”.

The Adnan family raised the case after exhausting every avenue in the application process. Tax bosses will now decide whether or not to appeal the outcome of the judicial review.

Cochrane said: “This is an important decision. It is the first in the UK to confirm that refugees who applied for asylum prior to 1 February 2019 have retained the important right to make a claim for a backdated payment of child tax credit.

“We would strongly encourage any refugees who applied for asylum before 1 February 2019 to seek advice to ensure that they receive all the payments they are entitled to.”

READ MORE: Police secrecy questioned after force refuses to reveal Kenmure Street details

She went on: “It is not known how many refugees have applied for a backdated payment of child tax credit after the introduction of Universal Credit, only to be told that it is no longer possible for HMRC to process their claim.

“Govan Law Centre calls on the UK Government to review the past decisions made in cases such as these and ensure that all eligible claims for backdated tax credits are processed.

“This decision is on the back of a huge amount of work by staff at Govan Law Centre and we want to thank our clients, Mr and Mrs Adnan, for sticking with this case.

“It is very stressful to go through a long case like this. Govan Law Centre will continue to work to improve the lives of those who, for whatever reason, need to come to the UK.”

An HMRC spokesperson said: “We are carefully considering the Court of Session’s decision, to decide our next steps.”