A4.568A Reasonable excuse—reliance on HMRC
For an overview of the concept of reasonable excuse, see A4.568. This article considered whether taxpayer reliance on verbal advice from HMRC or HMRC guidance when dealing with their tax affairs constitutes a reasonable excuse.
In instances other than inaccuracies, for example in relation to late filing, HMRC says that it accepts that the taxpayer may have a reasonable excuse if, after receiving a notice requiring filing, they promptly contact HMRC to question whether they are required to file a return and it takes an unreasonably long time to reply. However, the taxpayer would be expected to file the return without delay as soon as they receive HMRC's answer1.
The same principles would, presumably, apply to other situations where the taxpayer could not reasonably be expected to comply with an obligation before receiving a vital piece of information from HMRC.
Case law on relying on HMRC
The First-tier Tribunal and its predecessors have accepted that reliance upon misleading advice from HMRC can amount to a reasonable excuse.
In Westow Cricket Club2, the taxpayer (a community amateur sports club (CASC), see B5.901) sought advice from HMRC on whether the construction of a cricket pavilion was zero-rated for VAT. The HMRC officer referred the taxpayer to a specific part of the relevant VAT Notice which set out the conditions that must be met for this treatment to apply (which included that the taxpayer must be a charity) and then stated that 'it appears' that the conditions were met in
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