Reasonable excuses

You can appeal against some penalties if you have a reasonable excuse, for example for your return or payment being late.

What may count as a reasonable excuse

A reasonable excuse is something that stopped you meeting a tax obligation that you took reasonable care to meet, for example:

  • your partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs
  • you had a serious or life-threatening illness
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return
  • service issues with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online services
  • a fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return
  • postal delays that you could not have predicted
  • delays related to a disability you have

You must send your return or payment as soon as possible after your reasonable excuse is resolved.

If you’re affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)

HMRC will consider coronavirus as a reasonable excuse for missing some tax obligations (such as payments or filing dates).

Explain how you were affected by coronavirus in your appeal. You must still make the return or payment as soon as you can.

What will not count as a reasonable excuse

The following will not be accepted as a reasonable excuse:

  • you relied on someone else to send your return and they did not
  • your cheque bounced or payment failed because you did not have enough money
  • you found the HMRC online system too difficult to use
  • you did not get a reminder from HMRC
  • you made a mistake on your tax return