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HMRC internal manual

Senior Accounting Officer Guidance

Reasonable excuse: reliance on another person

Where a person has asked somebody else to do something on their behalf, that person is responsible for ensuring that the other person carries out the task. They cannot claim they had a reasonable excuse merely because they delegated the task to a third party and that third party failed to complete it.

We expect the person to take reasonable care to explain to the third party what they require them to do, to set deadlines for the work and to make regular checks on progress, reminding where appropriate.

If the person does this and still fails to notify details, carry out the main duty or provide a certificate because the third party failed, they may have a reasonable excuse. However, the person must remedy the failure without unreasonable delay after the excuse has ended, see SAOG20800.

We expect the person

  • to be able to tell us what action they took to ensure that the obligation was met, and
  • normally, but not always, to know the reason why the failure occurred.

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

FA09/SCH46/PARA8 (2)(b)