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HMRC internal manual

Customs Civil Penalties Guidance

HM Revenue & Customs
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Reasonable excuse: how will HMRC be satisfied that there is a reasonable excuse

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

There are many different circumstances that may represent a reasonable excuse for a contravention. 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 us 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 we need supporting evidence and, if so, what that will be. Compliance officers must make sure that any request for evidence they make is reasonable and proportionate. See guidance on HRA procedures at CH300000.

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

  • If we consider the excuse to be reasonable we must accept it.
  • If we do not consider that 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 the officer gives notice of their decision. The letter notifying the person of the decision must also advise them of their right to a review or to refer their appeal to the tribunal, see ARTG2020.