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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

Penalties for failure to notify: other penalty issues: agent acting: introduction

We may charge a penalty where

  • a person fails to notify, see CH71220, or
  • the person had a reasonable excuse, CH71500, for the failure but did not remedy the failure without unreasonable delay after the excuse ended, see CH71660.

The law refers to the action or inaction of the person, alone.


Where an agent is acting for the person (P) the scope of those provisions is widened. P may be charged a penalty where

  • the failure was due to someone acting on P’s behalf
  • someone acting on P’s behalf knew or should have known that a notification should have been given to us and failed to take reasonable steps to tell us
  • someone acting on P’s behalf discovers that a notification is required and does not take steps to tell us.

If an agent has acted dishonestly, the behaviour of the agent and person (P) must be considered separately. It is not simply a matter of whether or not P checked the agent’s work as carefully as they were able. Irrespective of the agent’s dishonesty, P’s behaviour will be determined by reference to the relevant facts.

The behaviour of the person acting on behalf of P is irrelevant. You must consider P’s behaviour to determine the amount of the penalty.

If P satisfies us that they themselves took reasonable care to avoid the failure, there will not be a penalty, see CH75160.

For further guidance on the relationship between P and an agent, see CH75140.

Where you suspect that a tax agent has engaged in dishonest conduct, see technical guidance starting at CH180000 and operational guidance starting at CH880000. Where you identify other types of poor agent behaviour, see CH800000.