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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

Reasonable excuse: introduction

A person will not be liable to a penalty for a contravention if they satisfy us that they have a reasonable excuse for what they have or have not done.

The onus is on the person responsible for the contravention to satisfy us that they had a reasonable excuse at the time of the contravention.

There is no statutory definition of reasonable excuse; it is a matter to be considered in the light of all the circumstances of the particular case. See the more detailed explanation at CCPG11720.

What is reasonable will differ from person to person depending on their particular circumstances and abilities. However, there are some excuses that are not normally accepted as reasonable. These are

  • shortage of funds, but see the exception in CCPG11750, and
  • reliance on another person, but see the exception in CCPG11760.

If we decide not to accept the person’s excuse as reasonable we will take the appropriate CCP action.

However, we should make a record of any information the trader gives by way of a reasonable excuse as the civil penalty officer may use this when they are considering Mitigation.

The trader has a right to ask for a review of our decision by someone independent of the original decision. If the matter cannot be settled by agreement (with or without a review) the person may notify an appeal to the Tribunal, see the Appeals, Reviews and Tribunals Guidance (ARTG).