HMRC is still required to obtain certain returns from you even if there is no income or tax to declare. Failure to submit will likely trigger late filing penalties and unfortunately, pleading ignorance of your obligations to file “nil” returns is not a reasonable excuse.
Which begs the question, what is a reasonable excuse?
HMRC had published what may, and what will not, be considered excusable. They say:
A reasonable excuse is something that stopped you meeting a tax obligation that you took reasonable care to meet, for example:
- your partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline,
- you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs,
- you had a serious or life-threatening illness,
- your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return,
- service issues with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online services,
- a fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return,
- postal delays that you couldn’t have predicted,
- delays related to a disability you have.
You must send your return or payment as soon as possible after your reasonable excuse is resolved.
What won’t count as a reasonable excuse are situations where:
- you relied on someone else to send your return and they didn’t,
- your cheque bounced, or payment failed because you didn’t have enough money,
- you found the HMRC online system too difficult to use,
- you didn’t get a reminder from HMRC,
- you made a mistake on your tax return.
Often, failure to file is not a deliberate act. Unfortunately, appealing against what you consider to be an unreasonable stance by HMRC is not that simple, and ignoring the issue is not the way to go.