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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Dishonest tax agents: file access notice: reasonable excuse: reliance on another person

Where a person has asked somebody else to do something on their behalf, that person is responsible for ensuring that the other person carries out the task. They cannot claim they had a reasonable excuse merely because they delegated the task to a third party and that third party failed to complete it.

We expect the person to take reasonable care to ensure that they contact the third party promptly, that deadlines are set for the work required and to make regular checks on progress, reminding where appropriate. We expect the person

  • to be able to tell us what action they took to get the documents or information, and
  • normally, but not always, to know the reason for any delay.

If the person receiving the notice does all this and still fails to comply with the notice because the third party failed, they may have a reasonable excuse. However, the person must remedy the failure without unreasonable delay after the excuse has ended, see CH183660.

Remember that there is no statutory definition of ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’. Each case must be judged on its own merits in view of the person’s abilities and circumstances.

FA12/SCH38/PARA25 (2)(b)