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HMRC internal manual

Compliance Handbook

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Penalties for VAT and Excise Wrongdoing: in what circumstances is a penalty payable: reasonable excuse: how will HMRC be satisfied a reasonable excuse exists

You will have to establish how a wrongdoing occurred in order to decide whether the circumstances surrounding that wrongdoing provide the person with a reasonable excuse for the wrongdoing.

There are many different circumstances that may represent a reasonable excuse for a non-deliberate VAT or excise wrongdoing. Each case must be considered on its own merits and you need to take into account a person’s abilities, circumstances and experience.

The onus is on the person to satisfy you that they have a reasonable excuse. They must tell you the reason and you must listen carefully to what you are told.

You should consider the explanation carefully taking into account all the circumstances and available information.

The circumstances of each individual case will determine whether you need supporting evidence and if so, what that will be.

You must ensure that any request for evidence you make is reasonable and proportionate. If you need to ask for information you must apply this guidance in conjunction with the HRA procedures at CH21360.

Whether there is a reasonable excuse is a matter of judgement.

  • If you consider the excuse to be reasonable you must accept it.
  • If you do not consider the person’s arguments represent a reasonable excuse then you must tell the person and give them the opportunity to provide further argument and/or evidence as to why they have a reasonable excuse before you give notice of your decision. Your letter notifying the person of your decision must also advise them of their appeal and review rights in accordance with the Appeals, Reviews and Tribunals Guidance at ARTG3000+. ARTG15000 contains standard wording for decision letters.