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HMRC internal manual

Senior Accounting Officer Guidance

Reasonable excuse: insufficiency of funds

An insufficiency of funds is not in itself a reasonable excuse for a company’s failure to notify the name of the Senior Accounting Officer (SAO) on time, nor for a failure of the SAO to carry out the main duty or to provide a certificate on time. In order to be a reasonable excuse, the insufficiency must have been due to events outside a person’s control and have been a direct or indirect cause of the failure.

Many companies experience cash flow problems as part of their normal cycle of business. If a Customer Compliance Manager (CCM), the Mid-sized Business Customer Engagement Team (CET) or a Caseworker receives a claim to reasonable excuse on these grounds, they must bear in mind that companies should manage those difficulties as part of their day to day operations. So in general an insufficiency of funds is not something we expect to cause failures by the company or SAO.

However if the company or SAO argues that this is a reasonable excuse the CCM, CET or Caseworker should critically examine their argument.

This is not to say there will never be unforeseeable events outside a company’s or SAO’s control that create a severe cash shortage that cannot be managed. If this insufficiency of funds is the cause of the failure then the company may have a reasonable excuse. However the company or SAO must remedy the failure without unreasonable delay after the excuse has ended, see SAOG20800.

Remember that there is no statutory definition of ‘reasonable’ or ‘unreasonable’. Each case must be judged on its merits in view of the person’s abilities and circumstances.