In mails when explaining the cause of a delay etc, I receive something like the following.





is there a difference or are they pretty much the same thing?


I think one of the main differences is that 申し訳ない coveys a sense of apology, for example if something wrong has been done from the speaker to the listener (now, that this expression is being constantly overused in Japan even for the slightest thing is just my opinion and a different story :) ).

On the other hand, 恐れ入りますが doesn't mean something wrong has been done to the listener but the speaker is showing consideration/concern towards the listener when for example making a request.

This link has really a lot of useful info about these two expressions. Let me quote below just one part about the difference, which is mostly what you are asking aboug.



Let me add some more. It's interesting to notice that apparently 恐れ入りますが is often mistakenly used. For example, always according to the source above, it cannot be used related to the speaker's personal behavior:



And for example the following are examples of wrong usage:




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