beta This part of GOV.UK is being rebuilt – find out what beta means

HMRC internal manual

MLR1 Penalties Guidance

Penalty guidance: reasonable excuse: introduction

Where a breach has occurred there may be unusual events that are either unforeseeable or beyond the person’s control when we will accept that there is a reasonable excuse for the breach. Under these circumstances we will consider cancelling the penalty.

Reasonable excuses must be completely beyond the control of the business or the individuals who run a business. For example business records may have been destroyed in a natural disaster. When a business believes it has a reasonable excuse for non-compliance each case will be considered on its specific merits.

A reasonable excuse is completely different to mitigating factors and behaviours which we will take into account when deciding if a penalty reduction is appropriate.

For example, a genuine mistake or misunderstanding about the requirements of the Regulations is never a reasonable excuse. This is a mitigating factor which we will take into account when deciding the level of any penalty reduction. If a business makes a mistake or misunderstands the Regulations this is inherently not completely beyond the control of the business.

In general we will only accept reasonable excuses which cover a very specific relevant period when the excuse was valid.

If a business believes they have a reasonable excuse it should tell us about this at the earliest opportunity. It is in the interests of the business to tell us before an Intervention or Compliance Visit has been arranged.

Ideally this should be sent at the same time as any disclosure of the breach by the business. Otherwise details should be disclosed either during the Compliance Visit or submitted in writing as part of any comments made in reply to a pre-penalty notice.