Appeals, penalties and checks into your tax return

In this section:

Appeals against HM Revenue & Customs tax decisions

If you think an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) decision about your Self Assessment tax return, payment or penalty is wrong, you may have the right to appeal. You can also authorise a professional adviser to appeal on your behalf.

On this page:

Your right of appeal

HMRC will write to you with their decision about your Self Assessment tax return or payment. They will always make it clear if you have the right of appeal.

For example you have the right of appeal against a penalty for:

  • sending in your tax return late
  • paying tax late
  • not paying enough tax
  • failing to keep adequate records

Other examples of Self Assessment decisions you can appeal against include

  • tax assessments made by HMRC if you haven't paid enough tax
  • amendments made by HMRC, following a check into your tax return

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How to appeal against a Self Assessment decision

HMRC will always send you information about how and when to appeal when they tell you about their decision.

You need to make your appeal to HMRC in writing. If you've received a penalty notice you should use the appeal form, if one was attached. Otherwise you can send a letter. You must appeal within 30 days of the date of the penalty notice or HMRC decision.

You'll need to explain why you're making the appeal. For example, you may think you:

  • sent your tax return on time
  • have a reasonable excuse for missing a deadline
  • made a mistake on your tax return

You can find out more about 'reasonable excuse' below.

Who should make the appeal?

Usually the person who has received the penalty, or their authorised tax adviser, should make the appeal,
For business partnerships, each partner may have received a penalty, for example if the Partnership Tax Return was sent late. In this case, the nominated partner must make the appeal on behalf of the partnership and other partners.

Get forms to appeal against penalties

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Making an appeal if you have a 'reasonable excuse'

Sometimes you may think you have a reasonable excuse for sending a tax return or a payment late. For example, there may have been an unexpected or unusual event, beyond your control that prevented you from meeting the deadline. In this case you must still send your return or payment as soon as you can. HMRC usually expects to receive it within 14 days of the problem ending.

Examples of reasonable excuse

There are no hard and fast rules, but some examples where HMRC may agree you have a reasonable excuse, if they prevented you from sending your return on time are:

  • life-threatening illness, for example a heart attack, or the onset of a disability or a serious mental health condition that prevents you dealing with your tax affairs
  • the death of a partner shortly before a payment or tax return deadline
  • unexpected or unforeseeable postal delays
  • important documents lost, through theft, fire or flood, that can't be replaced in time
  • late receipt of your online Activation Code, User ID or password even though you asked for them before the tax return deadline

Examples of unacceptable excuses

HMRC will not usually accept you have a reasonable excuse if:

  • you don't have enough money to pay the tax due
  • you relied on another person to send your return and they didn't
  • you didn't receive a reminder for your tax return or payment
  • you didn’t get your online Activation Code, User ID or password in time, but you didn't ask for them until after the tax return deadline

How to tell HMRC about your reasonable excuse

If you miss a deadline and believe you have a reasonable excuse, you should write and tell HMRC as soon as possible. Don't wait until HMRC writes to you to tell you about the penalty, tax assessment or other decision. HMRC will look carefully at the information you provide and any other available evidence.

You can tell HMRC about your reasonable excuse by completing and returning a claim form, an appeal form (see the links below) or by sending a letter to your HMRC office. You'll find the address on your Self Assessment statements. If you're sending a letter, you should provide:

  • your name and signature
  • your ten-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference - you'll find this on your tax return or statement
  • the reason you think you have a reasonable excuse
  • the date you sent your return or payment, if it was late

Find a 'reasonable excuse' claim form for late online tax returns

Get an appeal form against penalties for late tax returns or payments (Opens new window)

Find contact details for HMRC (Opens new window)

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What happens after you appeal?

In most cases you'll be able to reach an agreement with HMRC and settle your appeal. But if not, you can:

  • ask for your case to be reviewed again, by someone else at HMRC
  • send your appeal to an independent tribunal.

Find out how to get an HMRC decision reviewed

Read about appealing to a tribunal

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Authorising an accountant or tax adviser

If you decide to authorise an adviser or accountant, they’ll deal with your tax affairs for you. They’ll send in your tax return and handle appeals on your behalf.

Find out more about authorising an accountant to deal with HMRC for you

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More useful links

What to do if you can't pay your tax bill
Tax return deadlines and penalties
Checks into your tax return