Tax & admin · 15 January 2016

HMRC: Funniest excuses for filing late tax returns published

HMRC’s online tax self-assessment deadline is 31 January

It appears that Britain’s taxpayers are prepared to stop at nothing to pass the blame for filing late tax returns.

In advance of the imminent 31 January self-assessment deadline, HMRC has published some of the worst (or rather best) excuses the department has received from individuals with lax timekeeping from the previous tax year.

The plethora of excuses from late-payers in 2013/14 ranges from broken kitchen appliances to hungry pets – all of which were unsuccessful. The other published excuses were as follows:

(1) My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them

(2) “I’m not a paperwork orientated person – I always relied on my sister to complete my returns but we have now fallen out

(3) My accountant has been ill

(4) My dog ate my tax return

(5) I will be abroad on deadline day with no internet access so will be unable to file

(6) My laptop broke, so did my washing machine

(7) My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my log in details to complete my return online

(8) My husband ran over my laptop

(9) I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years

(10) I had a cold which took a long time to go

Despite receiving such spurious excuses, HMRC issued a statement saying it does recognise legitimate excuses and accepts that some taxpayers may have difficulties completing self-assessments on time.

For instance, those taxpayers affected by flooding at their residence will not be required to pay a penalty if their tax return is submitted within reasonable time after the deadline.

HMRC’s director general of personal tax, Ruth Owen, said: “We understand life can be unpredictable and for those customers who have genuine excuses for missing the 31 January deadline, such as the flooding, help is on hand.”

The department has opened a tax helpline to give practical help and advice to people affected by severe weather and flooding.
“We’re here to help people in genuine distress, but not to act as a free lender to people who can’t meet responsibilities to pay their tax,” Owen went on to say.
“My advice would be to contact us through our helplines or online, as soon as possible. But for those who are trying to play the system while the rest of us do the right thing, the message is clear: submit your tax return online by 31 January or face a fine.”

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Fred Heritage was previously 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.