Reasonable Excuse: Taxman’s own advice

If a taxpayer fails to meet an HMRC deadline they can face penalties unless they have a so-called “Reasonable Excuse”. The Tax Tribunal has decided that reliance on incorrect information given out by HMRC helpline staff is a reasonable excuse.

An employee had been told by an HMRC helpline officer that she had “at the latest until the 7th of the month“ to make payment. The employee relied on the advice and submitted returns with payments on the 7th.  She subsequently filed all the VAT returns on the 7th and instructed her successor to do the same.  As a result of delays in the clearing of funds, payments were received late by HMRC, who had charged a default surcharge.  But HMRC had not pointed out that the delay in clearing could be an issue.

The Tax Tribunal decided that reliance on HMRC advice was a reasonable excuse.

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