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Last year on January 8th, I posted a Blog entitled 13 Unusual Excuses as to why a Tax Return was late, all taken from the now annual press release by HMRC of unusual and unsuccessful excuses used by taxpayers in penalty appeals.

The excuses range from hungry rodents to five year long arguments and have all be put forward in an attempt by individuals to have their fines wiped out under the ‘reasonable excuse’ provision. It will not surprise you to learn that they all failed.

“My tax papers were left in the shed and a rat ate them,” read one excuse. Unsurprisingly, the taxman didn’t bite. In another fanciful excuse, a taxpayer said: “I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years”.

But, in light of recent flooding, there are many taxpayers and accountants who have reasonable excuses for late filing. HMRC has conceded that “those affected by flooding at their premises, or their agents’ premises, will not be asked to pay a penalty if their return is submitted without unreasonable delay”.

The department has opened a tax helpline to give practical help and advice to people affected by severe weather and flooding – 0800 904 7900.

“We understand that life can be unpredictable and for those customers who have a genuine excuse for missing the 31st January deadline, such as the flooding, help is at hand. My advice would be to contact us through our helplines or online, as soon as possible.”

“We’re here to help people in genuine distress, but not to act as a free lender to people who can’t meet their responsibilities to pay their tax.”

Ruth Owen, HMRC director general of personal tax.

Annual Event

I really enjoyed writing the previous two Blogs on excuses and I know from the feedback received, that most of my readers equally enjoyed reading them.

So here are this year’s selections of unsuccessful excuses used in penalty appeals:

  • I stored my tax papers in the garden shed and they’ve been eaten by rats
  • I’m not a paperwork-orientated person – I always relied on my sister to complete my returns but we have now fallen out
  • My accountant has been poorly and his wife wouldn’t pass on my messages
  • I have a canvas briefcase and my wife washed it ruining my papers
  • My dog doesn’t like the postman so he ate my tax return
  • My annual holiday meant that I was abroad on deadline day and there wasn’t any internet access so I was unable to file my return
  • My laptop broke, so did my washing machine and my tele
  • My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my log-in details to complete my return online
  • I left my computer on the drive and my husband ran over it
  • I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years
  • I had a bad cold which took a long time to go
  • My horse kicked me on the head and I had amnesia for a while

Tax Accountant’s Favourite Excuse(s)

And finally, my personal favourite was from a taxpayer in Cornwall who didn’t submit his tax return on time, but who clearly decided that if he came up with an inventive list of ten separate excuses, at least one would do the trick:

My wife was ill

So was I

So was the cat

We live in a rural area and the post is a bit iffy

My car broke down and I’m waiting for parts

You didn’t tell me your address

I broke my glasses

I don’t really understand tax

My friend promised to help me, but let me down

I’m frightened of my computer because it gives electric shocks

Unfortunately for our inventive Cornishman, they all failed, but ten out of ten for effort!

Image of David Jones Shrewsbury Accountant and Founder of Morgan Jones

If you would like more detailed information on some aspect of UK Tax, send me an e-mail and I’ll be pleased to advise further.