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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Data gathering: penalties: reasonable excuse: when does a reasonable excuse end

Where a data-holder has a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with a data-holder notice, they must remedy that failure without unreasonable delay after the excuse ends.

If they do this, we will treat the excuse as continuing until the date when they deliver the relevant data to us, or otherwise remedy the failure, and will therefore not charge a penalty. If they do not do this, they will not have a reasonable excuse for the failure and therefore we will charge the penalty.

You need to consider carefully the point at which a reasonable excuse ends and the actions the data-holder took after that time to remedy the failure. Each case must be dealt with on its own merits.

In terms of unreasonable delay, there is no statutory definition of ‘unreasonable’. Each case must be judged on its own merits in view of the data-holder’s abilities and circumstances.


Buchanan Limited failed to provide relevant data within the timeframe stated in a data-holder notice. The data holder notice required that the data was to be sent electronically on 10 October. A director for Buchanan Limited said that they failed to comply with the data-holder notice because there was a complete failure of internet services in their area for three days starting from 9 October. Buchanan Limited provided the data on 13 October. Buchanan Limited had a reasonable excuse for not providing the relevant data by 10 October. Due to the event that occurred, we would accept that Buchanan Limited provided the relevant data without unreasonable delay.

FA11/SCH23/PARA34 (2)(c)