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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Dishonest tax agents: file access notice: reasonable excuse: how will HMRC be satisfied a reasonable excuse exists

You will have to establish how a failure to comply with a file access notice occurred in order to decide whether the circumstances surrounding the failure provide the person with a reasonable excuse for that failure.

There are many different circumstances that may represent a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with a file access notice. Each case must be considered on its own merits and you need to take into account a person’s abilities, circumstances and experience. The circumstances of each individual case will determine whether you need supporting evidence and, if so, what that will be.

You must ensure that any request for evidence you make is reasonable and proportionate, see CH21360.

The onus is on the person to satisfy you that they have a reasonable excuse. They must tell you the reason and you must listen carefully to what you are told. You should consider the explanation carefully taking into account all the circumstances and available information. It is a matter of judgement. If you consider the excuse to be reasonable you must accept it.

In some cases it may be reasonable to seek evidence to support some or all of the person’s arguments.

If you do not consider that the person’s arguments represent a reasonable excuse then you must tell the person and give them the opportunity to provide further argument and/or evidence as to why they have a reasonable excuse before you give notice of your decision. Your letter notifying the person of your decision must also advise them of their appeal and review rights in accordance with the Appeals, Reviews and Tribunals Guidance for direct taxes, see ARTG2100+. ARTG15000 contains standard wording for explanation letters.