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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Penalties for Failure to File on Time: in what circumstances is a penalty payable: 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 explain to the third party what they require them to do, to set deadlines for the work 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 ensure that the obligation to file the return or other document was met, and
  • normally, but not always, to know the reason why the failure occurred.

If the person does this and still fails to file the return or other document 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 CH61660.

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. See CH61540 and CH61560.

FA09/SCH55/PARA23 (2)(b)