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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Dishonest tax agents: file access notice: reasonable excuse: what is a reasonable excuse - examples

This page gives some examples of what might constitute a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with a file access notice.

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.

If we do not accept the person’s excuse, they can appeal and are entitled to a review, see ARTG2100+. See CH183660 for guidance about when a reasonable excuse ends.

Bereavement

We will normally treat the death of a close relative or domestic partner around the time when the person should have complied with the file access notice 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 complied with the file access notice as a reasonable excuse.

Onset of disability or serious health condition

We would normally treat the onset of a mental or physical disability or health condition that is serious enough to make the person unable to comply with a file access notice as a reasonable excuse.

However, we would expect someone who knows they will find it difficult to meet a requirement, because of an existing condition, to make every reasonable effort to anticipate this and make alternative arrangements.

Unforeseen Events

Some examples of what could be a reasonable excuse are

  • a loss of records through fire, flood or theft,
  • a computer breakdown,
  • a loss of key personnel,
  • an unexpected cash crisis, see CH183620 
  • unavoidable delays beyond the person’s control, see CH183640.

We will normally accept that there is a reasonable excuse if the information or documents are lost or delayed in the post because of an unforeseen event disrupting the postal service. For example

  • fire or flood at the sorting office where the information or document would be held, or
  • industrial action trapping the information or document in the post.

FA12/SCH38/PARA25