Terminal illness 'not a reasonable excuse' for late tax payment

A dying man’s terminal illness is not an excuse for paying his tax late, according to a tribunal.

Matthew Roper was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, following a collapse in July 2011. He did not pay tax due on the 31 January 2012 deadline, and received three penalties.

Mr Roper appealed against the penalties on the grounds of ill health, and the case went to tribunal.

During the proceedings HMRC pointed out that Mr Roper had filed his tax return on 6 January 2012, using the electronic filing system. They argued that he had not taken action to correct the breach quickly enough – a key responsibility if a taxpayer is to be judged to have a reasonable excuse.

The Revenue argued that either Mr Roper or an appointed representative would have been able to pay the tax online.

The Tribunal ruled in HMRC’s favour, suggesting that there was no reason why an arrangement could not have been made to pay the tax electronically.

The case has led to calls for a new statutory definition of “reasonable excuse”, which is currently not specified in law.