HMRC’s top 10 bonkers excuses for late tax returns

A yacht catching fire has been given as one of the absurd explanations for missing the 31 January self assessment tax return deadline, according to HMRC’s latest top ten list of excuses used in unsuccessful appeals

Alongside the top excuse of ‘my tax return was on my yacht…which caught fire’ (a problem that only a few might have), late taxpayers have also passed the blame onto pets, partners and children.

One taxpayer used his wife’s headache as an explanation for why he missed the deadline as she normally helped him with it, another said ‘I couldn’t complete my tax return, because my husband left me and took our accountant with him. I am currently trying to find a new accountant’.

Animals were also blamed with one taxpayer telling of a wasp causing a car crash which inevitably destroyed the tax return. Others were unimaginative using the age old excuse of ‘my dog ate it’.

Another excuse used was ‘my internet connection failed’. HMRC’s customer service may have to get used to hearing this particular excuse as it moves to Making Tax Digital, which could see lots of taxpayers in rural areas having problems with internet connection and speeds.

These excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late returns. Even though HMRC will not accept ridiculous excuses, it will treat those with genuine excuses leniently. The ten listed were all declined on the basis that they were either untrue or not good enough reasons.

Ruth Owen, HMRC director general of customer services, said: ‘Blaming the postman, arguing with family members and pesky insects – it’s easy to see that some excuses for not completing a tax return on time can be more questionable than others. Luckily, it’s only a small minority who chance their arm.

‘But there will always be help and support available 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 better.’

Taxpayers filing before the January deadline could find themselves at an advantage according to Blick Rothenberg.

Susan Spash, partner at Blick Rothenberg, said: ‘Whilst it is well publicised that the main online filing deadline for self-assessment is 31 January, after the end of the tax year in April, certain taxpayers can obtain a cash flow advantage if they file a month earlier.

‘Taxpayers in PAYE employment who have underpaid tax for 2015/16 of less than £3,000 and file online by midnight on 30 December 2016 can request within the online return that the payment is collected in equal instalments by deduction from pay under the PAYE scheme. ‘

The full list of HMRC’s unusual excuses are available here. 

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