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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: when does a reasonable excuse end

Where a person has a reasonable excuse for a failure to file on time, 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 their return or other document 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 a penalty.

You need to consider carefully the point at which a reasonable excuse ends and the actions the person took after that time to deliver their return or other document, or otherwise 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 person’s abilities and circumstances.


In January 2013 Jodie was in the process of finalising her 2011-12 ITSA return when she was unexpectedly hospitalised for an inflamed appendix. Jodie was discharged from hospital in February 2013, and recovered from the operation quickly.

Jodie had a genuine reason for not filing her income tax return by 31 January 2013, but whether that was a reasonable excuse depends on how soon she filed her ITSA return after she was released from hospital.

If the return was filed within a couple of weeks of Jodie getting home, we would accept that she had a reasonable excuse for not filing the return by the filing date. However, if she didn’t file the return for several months then we would say that Jodie didn’t have a reasonable excuse because she didn’t remedy the failure without unreasonable delay.

FA09/SCH55/PARA23 (2)(c)