'Green' objection dismissed

Posted: 8th January 2015

LaptopA ‘green’ entrepreneur who objects to the internet on religious and moral grounds has failed to convince a tribunal that the legal requirement to file his VAT returns online amounts to a violation of his human rights.

Matthew Oxenham, who owns Exmoor Coast Boat Cruises, saw himself as being on ‘something of a crusade’ against online filing. He claimed that his opposition to the internet arose from his membership of the Plymouth Brethren and his belief that mass use of computers caused more environmental damage than aviation, added to climate change and amounted to ‘genocide of future generations’.

HM Revenue and Customs, however, refused his repeated requests to be exempted from compulsory online filing. In rejecting his appeal against that decision, the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) did not accept that he was a ‘practising’ member of the Plymouth Brethren or any other religious society or order. It had also not been established that the Brethren’s beliefs were incompatible with electronic communication.

Whilst in no way doubting the sincerity of his views, the FTT noted that he owned a television and carried and used a mobile phone, although he viewed the latter as ‘a necessary evil’. He was prepared to make use of the internet, through agents, when he judged it ‘economically necessary’ to do so. His principled objections to electronic communication had not attained a level of cogency, seriousness or cohesion to merit protection under human rights legislation.