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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Penalties for Failure to Pay on Time: reasonable excuse: what is a reasonable excuse - examples

This page gives some examples of what might constitute a reasonable excuse for failing to pay on time.

Please remember that these are hypothetical examples and are only intended to give you an idea of the factors you might need to consider. They are not model answers to a particular situation or the ‘correct’ way to deal with similar cases. Real cases will have many other factors to take into account and you need to consider each in the light of all the relevant facts. An excuse will not necessarily be accepted as reasonable just because it seems to fit into one of these categories. It depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

The person can appeal and is entitled to a review if we do not accept their excuse, see ARTG2100+ for direct taxes and ARTG3000+ for indirect taxes. See CH155900 for guidance about when a reasonable excuse ends.


We will normally treat the death of a close relative or domestic partner around the time when the payment was due as a reasonable excuse.

Serious illness

We will normally treat the serious illness of the person or of a close relative or domestic partner around the time when the person should have made payment as a reasonable excuse.

Events outside your reasonable control

We will normally accept that there is a reasonable excuse if the payment is lost or delayed in the post because of an unexpected  disruption to the postal service. For example

  • fire or flood at the sorting office where the payment would be held, or
  • prolonged industrial action.