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HMRC internal manual

Appeals reviews and tribunals guidance

Reviews and appeals for direct taxes: Appealing against a decision: Late appeals and reasonable excuse

When deciding whether a customer has a ‘reasonable excuse’, the decision maker should consider carefully the facts and circumstances of the individual case, bearing in mind that

  • what may be reasonable to expect of one customer may not be reasonable of another
  • sickness or absence of the customer may be a reasonable excuse
  • the reasonable excuse must be personal to the customer - for example the decision maker should not accept a late appeal because a new decision of the Courts, unconnected to the customer’s case, would make the appeal more viable
  • the amount involved is not relevant when deciding whether the excuse is reasonable


What can be a “reasonable excuse”?

The following examples are a guide to, but not an exhaustive list of circumstances, which might amount to a reasonable excuse.

  • The customer is a sole trader, or only director of a company, and has suffered a sudden and serious illness during the dates when they could have sent an appeal to HMRC or accepted a review offer, or have been affected by a prolonged and serious illness throughout this same period
  • Unavoidable and unexpected absence close to the dates when they could have sent an appeal or accepted a review offer because of business commitments or domestic emergencies
  • Accidental destruction of the records through fire or flood
  • Exceptional postal delays because of a strike by postal workers or other civil disturbance
  • Although we have not received the appropriate appeal or review acceptance from the customer, they claim nevertheless to have posted it to us in good time. Unless there is evidence to the contrary this explanation should be accepted on the first occasion
  • Sudden disruption to a business or its records by a break-in installation of a new computer system which has hit unexpected teething problems

What is a not “reasonable excuse”?

It will not be a reasonable excuse for the customer to claim that

  • the failure is due to their agent not taking action in time
  • information relevant to the appeal or review acceptance was not available by the due date
  • their affairs are too complicated for them to have sent us an appeal or accepted the review on time
  • they were too busy running their business
  • they are not liable to pay any tax for the period for which the appealable decision was made, or have overpaid tax