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HMRC internal manual

Self Assessment Manual

From
HM Revenue & Customs
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Returns: filing paper returns: 31 October deadline: claims for reasonable excuse

Further HMRC guidance on reasonable excuse for online filers is available under What counts as a reasonable excuse for filing an online return late? (External users can find the guidance at http://www..gov.uk/tax-appeals/reasonable-excuses.

Customers who file their return by paper after 31 October will normally incur a late filing penalty. They will get their first warning of this penalty from the SA302 message that is issued following the processing of the relevant return. The formal penalty notice will then be issued in February.

Some of these customers may wish to claim that they had a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not filing the return on time, and they are likely to do so by either enclosing the claim with their return, or by sending a claim after receiving the SA302, or after having received the formal penalty notice.

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

Claims received with the return and prior to 31 January

Many of these claims will be made on the form headed ‘Unable to file using SA online’, and should therefore contain all the information that is required.

The ‘Unable to file using SA online’ form facilitates a claim where either

  • The customer has been unable to file online because there is a temporary problem with specific aspects of the online filing system which has prevented them from completing their return online

Or

  • The customer has any other ‘reasonable excuse’

In both cases, the customer will need to specify the reason, but for cases as in the first bullet it will be sufficient to attach a note or copy of the relevant error message. Claims that contain neither the relevant error message nor some other explanation cannot be accepted. Any claim that simply refers to the lack of free HMRC software as an excuse is not acceptable. See ‘Appeals: Reasonable excuse’ (SAM10090), for examples of what you might agree or what you should not agree as grounds of reasonable excuse.

When dealing with the claim, if it is clear that the customer wanted to file online but has been prevented from doing so by a specific problem with the online system, you should

  • Accept the claim
  • Use Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY to enter a deferred filing date which coincides with the actual filing date
  • Send SEES acceptance letter SA643 to the customer
  • Make a record of your action in SA Notes

For any claims processed after the main penalty run in February, the system will have already identified the case for a penalty notice or charge. In these circumstances it will be necessary to cancel the penalty to ensure that it is not pursued. You can do this by using Function AMEND FIXED PENALTIES, accessed by using the [Amend penalties] button in Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY. Note: The function AMEND PENALTIES was used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 before April 2012. From April 2012 the function VIEW/CANCEL PENALTIES must be used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011.

In the event that you receive a claim which you feel is unacceptable, please refer to your manager before rejecting it.

If the claim has been made on any other basis (that is, not related to an online filing problem), it should be dealt with in accordance with existing guidance and, where it is acceptable, you should

  • Accept the claim
  • Use Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY to enter a deferred filing date which coincides with the actual filing date

For any claims processed after the main penalty run in February, the system will have already identified the case for a penalty notice or charge. In these circumstances it will be necessary to cancel the penalty to ensure that it is not pursued. You can do this by using Function AMEND FIXED PENALTIES, accessed by using the [Amend penalties] button in Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY. Note: The function AMEND PENALTIES was used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 before April 2012. From April 2012 the function VIEW/CANCEL PENALTIES must be used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 onwards.

In any situation where you are unable to accept the claim, please send SEES refusal letter SA644 to the customer. This will help explain to the customer what they need to do in the event that they wish to pursue their claim further.

In these circumstances, you should also ensure that the papers are retained in the appropriate DR (District Record) folder and that a clear reference to the fact that a claim has been received and initially refused is made in SA Notes.

If, following an initial rejection, a customer decides to pursue his or her claim by appealing against the subsequent formal penalty notice you should deal with such an appeal in accordance with existing guidance. Clearly, the DR notes referred to above will be relevant in the consideration of such an appeal.

Claims received separately to the return and prior to 31 January

These claims will come in with the normal post and should be processed as such.

If it is clear that the customer wanted to file online but has been prevented from doing so by a specific problem with the online system, you should

  • Accept the claim
  • Use Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY to enter a deferred filing date which coincides with the actual filing date
  • Send an acceptance letter to respond to the customer
  • Make a record of your action in SA Notes

For any claims processed after the main penalty run in February, the system will have already identified the case for a penalty notice or charge. In these circumstances, it will be necessary to cancel the penalty to ensure that it is not pursued. You can do this by using Function AMEND FIXED PENALTIES, accessed by using the [Amend penalties] button in Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY. Note: The function AMEND PENALTIES was used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 before April 2012. From April 2012 the function VIEW/CANCEL PENALTIES must be used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 onwards.

If the claim is made on any other basis, it should be dealt with in accordance with existing guidance and, where it is acceptable, you should

  • Accept the claim
  • Use Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY to enter a deferred filing date which coincides with the actual filing date

For any claims processed after the main penalty run in February, the system will have already identified the case for a penalty notice or charge. In these circumstances, it will be necessary to cancel the penalty to ensure that it is not pursued. You can do this by using Function AMEND FIXED PENALTIES, accessed by using the [Amend penalties] button in Function MAINTAIN RETURN SUMMARY. Note: The function AMEND PENALTIES was used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 before April 2012. From April 2012 the function VIEW/CANCEL PENALTIES must be used to cancel penalties for 2010-2011 onwards.

In the event that you are unable to accept the claim, please send SEES refusal letter SA644 to the customer. This will help explain to the customer what they need to do in the event that they wish to pursue their claim further.

In these circumstances, you should also ensure that the papers are retained in the appropriate DR folder and that a clear reference to the fact that a claim has been received and initially refused is made in SA Notes.

If, following an initial rejection, a customer decides to pursue his or her claim by appealing against the subsequent formal penalty notice you should deal with such an appeal in accordance with existing guidance. The DR notes referred to above will be relevant in the consideration of such an appeal.

Claims received after 31 January

If the return was submitted prior to 31 January, then these claims can be dealt with in a similar way to those referred to in the section above headed ‘Claims received separately to the return and prior to 31 January’.

If however the return was submitted after 31 January, the claim should be dealt under existing guidance.

Where the claim is made after the receipt of the formal penalty notice, it should be treated as an appeal against that notice and dealt with in accordance with existing guidance. In such circumstances however we will similarly accept that a ‘reasonable’ excuse’ exists where it is clear that the customer has had to resort to a late paper return because of a specific problem with the online system.

If the details or evidence provided by the customer in respect of returns filed online is either unclear or insufficient to initially accept the appeal, refer to SAM61290 - ‘Appeal against late filing penalties’ for further information.