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HMRC internal manual

PAYE Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
, see all updates

Reconcile individual: HMRC delay: ESC A19: reasonable belief

Upon receiving a claim for ESC A19 to apply, the reviewing officer must consider if it was reasonable, given the facts and circumstances, that the taxpayer believed that their tax affairs were in order during the build up of the arrears.

Reviewing officer

The reviewing officer should take account of relevant details about the taxpayer’s background as possible. This includes

  • Copies of all correspondence
  • Notes of telephone conversation
  • Notes of interview
  • Full taxpayer record and historical notes

Any open points should be explored. For example, if the taxpayer claims they couldn’t attend to their tax affairs because of personal problems, the reviewing officer should

  • Clarify the nature of those problems and the length of time
  • Consider whether they sufficiently distracted the taxpayer

The aim is to reach a common-sense decision using all the known facts and consideration of the taxpayer’s circumstances. If there are insufficient facts, then the reviewing officer should ask the taxpayer for more details.

Authorising officer

Where authorisation is required, the authorising officer should, as the reviewing officer has done, consider the taxpayers background and all other factors in reaching a decision to agree with the reviewing officer’s opinion.

The important point to remember is

  • Not whether the taxpayer ‘believed’ their tax affairs were in order during the build up of arrears


  • Whether it was reasonable for them to ‘hold that belief’

It is mandatory to record the reason(s) which support either recording a Revenue Loss or the reason(s) why ESC A19 is refused. These reasons should be recorded within NPS Notes or within SA Notes. (This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)

You should inform the taxpayer in writing of the decision made by issue of

  • OCA60 acceptance that ESC A19 applies in their case
  • OCA61 refusal to apply ESC A19 to their case