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. He filed his tax return on 6 Jan 2012, using electronic online filing. HMRC 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 – and that either he 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.