Reasonable care - inaccuracies in returns

By Tolley in association with Philip Rutherford

The following Owner-Managed Businesses guidance note by Tolley in association with Philip Rutherford provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Reasonable care - inaccuracies in returns
  • Introduction
  • Factors affecting reasonable care
  • HMRC guidance
  • Case law


The penalty regime in FA 2007, Sch 24 provides that there is no penalty where an inaccuracy leading to an underpayment of tax is made on a return orother document, provided the person took reasonable care. There is no statutory definition of reasonable care, so reliance must be placed on the guidance in the HMRC manuals and case law.

For a general overview of the penalty regime, see the Penalty rates and structure for inaccuracies in returns, Calculating the penalty for inaccuracies in returns - behaviour of the taxpayer and Calculating the penalty for inaccuracies - potential lost revenue guidance notes.

Factors affecting reasonable care

Reasonable care will vary depending on the capabilities and circumstances of the taxpayer and the complexity of the issues affecting them. Therefore, the following are likely to be taken into account:

  • whether the taxpayer is represented - in most cases an unrepresented taxpayer will have a lower understanding of the complexities of tax law than a represented taxpayer
  • the complexity of the tax affairs - if a taxpayer has particularly complex affairs the taxpayer could reasonably be expected to take professional advice
  • the taxpayer’s record keeping
  • the systems, processes and controls in place to ensure that tax is dealt with appropriately

HMRC provides its understanding of reasonable care at CH81120 and CH81130.

An Officer must first assess the taxpayer’s circumstances and abilities before coming to a conclusion about culpability for an inaccuracy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that in some cases HMRC is quick to assume that all inaccuracies result from carelessness.

See Example 1.

Uncertainty and reasonable care

There is particular guidance at CH81120 for those undertaking a transaction about which the

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