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HMRC internal manual

Excise Civil Penalties Manual

Reviews and appeals: Reasonable excuse points to consider

Once you have established that the contravention in question is potentially liable to a fixed or geared penalty you should then consider whether the taxpayer has a reasonable excuse for their conduct.

You may also find the guidance on reasonable excuse in the Compliance Handbook useful, see CH92000 and CH71500.

If a taxpayer has a reasonable excuse for their conduct there can be no liability to penalty.

Reasonable excuse provisions in excise law mirror the VAT provisions. Where possible we aim to ensure consistency of treatment across regimes, so much of the advice on reasonable excuse is based on previous VAT tribunal decisions.

You should listen to what the taxpayer has to say and consider whether any excuse which is offered is reasonable in the circumstances. Remember that a reasonable excuse which may be acceptable for one taxpayer may not be acceptable for another where different circumstances apply.

It should also be borne in mind that a person may offer a number of excuses which, although unacceptable when considered individually, may constitute an acceptable reasonable excuse when considered as a package.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)