What is a reasonable excuse for filing your tax return late?

February 6th 2015

You may feel aggrieved that you were unable to file your return on time for a perfectly valid reason. If you want to appeal against any penalties charged there is a formal appeals procedure you should follow. In order to convince HMRC to withdraw their penalty notice you will have to convince them that you had a reasonable excuse.

The following examples, of what constitutes a reasonable excuse, are copied from HMRC’s website:

  • HMRC Online Services would not accept the tax return - you’ll need to provide the error message you received and the date you tried to send it.
  • You did not receive the tax return or letter telling you to complete a tax return - HMRC usually know if you did not because it is sent back undelivered.
  • Bereavement - the death of a close relative or domestic partner shortly before the deadline.
  • Serious or life-threatening illness, for example, a major heart attack or a serious mental illness that prevents you dealing with your tax affairs.
  • You did not receive your online Activation Code, User ID or password in time to send your tax return by the deadline - as long as you tried to get them before the deadline and once you received them you sent your tax return as soon as you could.
  • Your tax return or cheque was lost or delayed in the post. You must have posted it in good time to meet the deadline.
  • Loss of tax records, through theft, fire or flood that cannot be replaced in time to meet the deadline.
  • Your cheque was dishonoured because of an error by your bank.

What HMRC will not accept as a reasonable excuse includes:

  • The tax return was too difficult to complete.
  • Pressure of work.
  • It was your agent’s or tax adviser’s fault that you missed the deadline.
  • Lack of information available.
  • We did not remind you about the tax return and payment deadlines.
  • You want to replace the paper tax return you have already sent with an online tax return to reduce your penalties.
  • Unable to send a certain tax return or supplementary pages online as there was no free HMRC software.
  • Your cheque was dishonoured due to a shortage of funds or made out incorrectly.

The best possible strategy to avoid penalties is to file your tax return before the statutory deadline. If you are prevented from doing so by circumstances that you feel constitute a reasonable excuse, then you should appeal against the penalty.

Please contact DSC Accountants, Harrogate if you would like to appeal or discuss this article.