A4.568G Reasonable excuse—postal failure, submission difficulties, systems errors etc
Online filing and postal issues have given rise to many disputes, and these commonly turn on the reliability of the evidence as to the primary facts.
There is potential for failure on both the part of HMRC and the taxpayer (and a third possibility of an agent's failure if one is engaged).
On the one hand, as discussed at A4.569, HMRC bears the burden of proving that the taxpayer defaulted on the obligation in question. HMRC may be able to discharge that burden, at least on a prima facie basis, by referring to their records.
HMRC must establish:
(a) that it served the required notice1 giving rise to the filing or payment obligation in question, and
(b) that the obligation was not met (for example, the return or payment was not made in time)
As to (a) above, if taxpayers say that they did not receive a notice, the Tribunal will consider 'rebuttal evidence' from the taxpayer suggesting that they did not receive it. The facts of the case must be weighed up carefully, as was demonstrated in Chattun2, the judgment of which is very helpful in illustrating how the Tribunal looks at such cases.
In conclusion, the judgment said:
'45. I found this to be a case where the evidence was very finely balanced. On the one hand, HMRC's systems indicated all the letters had been sent and there was no explanation for how there could have a systems failure such that all letters before a