In Fortune Foods UK Limited v HMRC  TC07952, 'ignorance of the new law' was not accepted as a reasonable excuse for late filing of a Soft Drinks Industry Levy return.
- The company registered for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL) on 1 March 2019.
- The regulations require it to submit quarterly returns for accounting periods ending 31 March, 30 June, 30 September and 31 December.
- The due date for each return is 30 days after the return period end.
- Late filing penalties for SDIL applied for returns ending on or after 30 June 2019.
- The company was one to two weeks late in filing each of its first three returns.
- HMRC seems to have operated a ‘light touch’ approach and issued a £100 late filing penalty for the September failure.
The company Appealed against the penalty. It claimed that it was unaware of the filing deadlines: HMRC had not sent out any reminders.
The FTT found that ignorance of the law was not a reasonable excuse for the filing failure. 'There is no reason why the proprietors of the appellant company could not have acquainted themselves of their obligations under the SDIL legislation'.
The appeal was dismissed.
It is interesting to note that HMRC stopped issuing reminders for the SDIL levy in its Agent Updates after 2018. Late payment penalties also apply.
Useful guides on this topic
Soft Drinks Industry Levy
What is the Soft Drinks Industry Levy? When is tax payable? When are returns due? What drinks are exempt? What are the penalties for compliance failures?
How to appeal a tax penalty
What are the steps in making an appeal? What should your appeal cover? What does recent case law say on this topic?
Grounds for appeal: toolkit
What grounds are there to appeal a tax penalty? How can you word a tax appeal? Can you appeal HMRC errors? What is a reasonable excuse?
Late filing penalties
Late returns can be subject to a mix of fixed and tax geared penalties. What penalties apply for late filing? Which penalty will apply and when?