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HMRC internal manual

Construction Industry Scheme Reform Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Compliance: Overview & ‘Reasonable excuse’: What can be a ‘reasonable excuse’? - examples

This page gives some examples of what might be a reasonable excuse for use either for a CIS penalty appeal or tax treatment appeal or other CIS appeal and should be read in conjunction with CISR81060.

Please remember that these examples and are only intended to give you an idea of the factors you might need to consider. They are not model answers to a particular situation or, necessarily, the correct way to deal with similar cases. Real cases will have many other factors to take into account and you need to consider each in the light of all the relevant facts. An excuse will not necessarily be accepted as reasonable just because it seems to fit into one of these categories. It depends on the individual circumstances of each case.

We will normally treat the following as a ‘reasonable excuse’ where the failure(s) was put right without unreasonable delay after the ‘reasonable excuse’ came to an end (see CISR81110).


  • The death of a close relative or domestic partner around the time when the customer should have complied with the payment or filing obligation.

Serious illness

  • The customer is a sole trader or director of a ‘one-man’ company and has suffered a sudden and serious illness during the payment and filing dates, or has been affected by a prolonged and serious illness throughout this same period.
  • The serious illness of a close relative or domestic partner around the time when the customer should have complied with the payment or filing obligation.

Postal delays

  • Postal delays, because of a strike by postal workers, other civil disturbance or severe weather. On the first occasion that a customer claims that a return has gone astray, you should accept their word, unless there is evidence in the file that throws real doubt upon the claim (for example, did the contractor post the return to HMRC using the ‘large letter’ rate of postage?). On any subsequent occasion, you should ask the customer to substantiate the claim. See the additional guidance on this subject at CISR65180.
  • Although the appropriate return or payment has not been received from the customer, they claim, nevertheless, to have posted it in good time. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, such a claim should be accepted on the first occasion that it is made, provided that a further return or payment is then submitted promptly. In any subsequent claim to this, the customer should be required to substantiate such a claim by evidence of posting of some kind.

Unforeseen Events

  • Unavoidable and unexpected absence close to the payment and filing dates because of business commitments or domestic emergencies.
  • Accidental destruction of the records through fire or flood.
  • Sudden disruption to a business, or its records, by a break-in.
  • Installation of a new computer system or program for the payroll or accounting which has hit unexpected teething problems.