COVID-19 – reasonable excuse and more time to appeal

Latest update 18 October 2021: The extended window to appeal introduced in February 2020 has now closed. 

Position from 1 October 2021

In February 2020, HMRC introduced a three-month extended window to appeal against tax decisions and penalties if the delay in making the appeal was due to coronavirus. This ended on 30 September 2021.  For tax decisions and penalties dated up to and including 30 September 2021, the extended window to appeal is still available but the normal process and times for appealing decisions dated from 1 October 2021 onwards will apply.  

Although the time limits have now returned to normal, HMRC do understand that some taxpayers are still feeling the impacts of coronavirus, and this may still be a reasonable excuse for not meeting tax obligations on time.

Closure of bulk appeals against Income Tax Self Assessment late filing penalties due to coronavirus  

Since 24 March 2021 tax agents have been able to appeal in bulk against late filing penalties, on behalf of their clients, for 2019-20 tax returns filed after 28 February 2021. This allowed agents to submit appeals for up to 25 clients at a time, where the reasonable excuse was due to coronavirus.

From 1 October 2021, the bulk appeal process is no longer available, so agents will need to follow the usual process, using the SA370 or appealing online. Agents can still claim reasonable excuse on behalf of their clients and, for decisions dated up to 30 September 2021, have the three month extended window to appeal.  

Position prior to 1 October 2021

For the period from February 2020 to 30 September 2020, where a taxpayer was unable to meet an obligation (such as a payment or filing deadline) due to COVID19, that was accepted as a reasonable excuse, provided they managed to remedy the failure as soon as they were able to do so.  Taxpayers were asked to explain how they were affected by COVID-19 when making their appeal, as well as making the return or payment as soon as they could.

Taxpayers affected by COVID-19 were also given further time to seek a review of, or appeal against, a HMRC decision.

HMRC gave an extra three months to appeal any decision that was dated February 2020 to 30 September 2021.  Taxpayers should have submitted their appeals as soon as possible, and explained that any delay was due to COVID-19.

HMRC also did not object if, because of COVID-19, an application was made to the tribunal to hear a late appeal provided that

  • the review decision was dated February 2020 or later; and
  • the application was made within three months of the normal deadline.

HMRC guidance

The following guidance on GOV.UK has now been updated to reflect the changes from 1 October 2021. 

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