Tax & admin · 22 January 2018

Aliens, vertigo and a poorly rabbit among the year’s worst self-assessment excuses

Aliens prevented one taxpayer from submitting their self-assessment form on time

Ahead of this year’s 31 January self-assessment deadline, HMRC has once again released its list of weird and wonderful expenses and excuses from the previous tax year.

Every year following the deadline, the tax office receives a long list of imaginative and colourful self-assessment excuses from members of the public who’ve failed to complete and return their tax returns on time.

HMRC tends also to receive many highly optimistic expense claims, from business owners attempting to claw back more of their earnings.

Read more: Five last-minute tax tips to beat the self-assessment deadline

Here are some of the most fanciful self-assessment excuses received following last year’s 31 January deadline, all of which were rejected by HMRC.

  • I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house
  • I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play
  • My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it
  • My business doesn’t really do anything
  • I spilt coffee on it

The items which taxpayers try to expense continue to get more questionable and outlandish year-on-year. Some of the worst (or rather best) expense claims from the self-assessment deadline in January 2017, of which all were rejected, were:

  • A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts
  • Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub
  • Vet fees for a rabbit
  • Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco
  • £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days

HMRC’s director general of customer services, Angela MacDonald, said: “Each year we’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return, but each year we still come across some questionable excuses, whether that’s blaming a busy touring schedule or seeing aliens.

“We also receive absurd expense claims from vet fees for a rabbit to room service at a hotel. It is unfair to make honest taxpayers pick up the bill for other people’s spurious claims, so HMRC will only accept sincere claims such as legitimate expenses for a job.”

The tax office clarified that the deadline for sending self-assessment tax returns for the 2016 to 2017 tax year, and for paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2018.

Read more: Tax experts warn company owners over new HMRC winding up rules

HMRC has confirmed that self-assessment users can also submit their tax returns online via their own personal tax accounts.

MacDonald added: “Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the more help we can offer.”

HMRC’s weakest self-assessment excuses and worst expense claims

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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