You are not liable to certain penalties if you satisfy us or (on appeal) the tribunal that there is a reasonable excuse for any of the following:
- failure to keep and preserve records (see RSTP3002);
- obstruction or failure to provide reasonable assistance in relation to exercising investigative powers concerning computer records (see RSTP3004);
- failure to make a return (see RSTP3005);
- failure to make a payment (see RSTP3008);
- failure (or continued failure) to comply with an information notice (see RSTP3015);
- obstruction (or continued obstruction) in relation to an inspection (see RSTP3015);
- failure to comply with a relevant requirement imposed by or under section 22 or 23 of the LT(S)A 2014 (see RSTP3019); and
- failure to comply with a notice to provide the contact details of a debtor (see RSTP3020).
The onus is on you to satisfy us that you had a reasonable excuse at the time of the failure or obstruction (whichever applies). A reasonable excuse does not apply where the failure or obstruction was deliberate.
There is no statutory definition of a reasonable excuse, which is a matter to be considered in the light of all the circumstances of the particular case. What is reasonable will differ from person to person depending on their particular circumstances and abilities.
However, there are some excuses that we will not accept as reasonable. These are:
- a shortage of funds, unless this was attributable to events outside your control (for example where you are waiting for payment from another party but for reasons that could not have been foreseen, such as insolvency, this is not forthcoming, and short term funds cannot be raised from elsewhere); and
- reliance on another person (unless you took reasonable care to avoid the failure or obstruction).
In addition, we would not generally consider the following to be a reasonable excuse:
- the tax return is too difficult to complete;
- pressure of work;
- lack of information;
- the fact that we did not remind you about something;
- ignorance of the law; or
- a combination of any of these.
The following categories are things which we might consider to be a reasonable excuse, but as mentioned before it will ultimately depend on the individual circumstances of each case, which are likely to have many other factors to take into account:
- bereavement - we will normally treat the death of a close relative or domestic partner around the time of the failure or obstruction as a reasonable excuse;
- serious illness - we will normally treat the serious illness of either you or a close relative or domestic partner around the time of the failure or obstruction as a reasonable excuse; and
- other genuinely unforeseen events which had a real impact on your ability to comply with the thing required of you, such as: a loss of records through fire, flood or theft, an unexpected loss of key personnel, unavoidable delays beyond your control such as industrial action trapping certain information or documents in the post.
If the reasonable excuse for your action (or inaction) ends, we will treat the excuse as continuing if you:
- put right the action/inaction; and
- do so without unreasonable delay after the excuse ends.
If you do not put right the action or inaction without unreasonable delay after the excuse has ended, you remain liable to the penalty.
We will need to consider carefully both the point at which a reasonable excuse ends and the actions you took after that time to put right the action/inaction, or otherwise remedy the failure. Each case must be dealt with on its own merits.
In terms of unreasonable delay, there is no statutory definition of ‘unreasonable’. Again, each case must be judged on its own merits in view of your abilities and circumstances.