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What is your Tax Return Trouble?

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s ‘Song of the Witches’ from Macbeth, one taxpayer used “My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me,” as an excuse for failing to submit his self-assessment tax return on time.

Yes, we’ve reached that time of the year again, when HMRC publishes its latest list of unusual and in many cases, outright bizarre, excuses given by taxpayers that hadn’t submitted their tax returns on time.

It’s not unusual for an excuse from the occult or the supernatural to top HMRC’s outlandish excuse list. Last year’s late return bizarre excuses list featured a taxpayer’s claim that he couldn’t file his tax return on time because his wife had been seeing aliens and had barred entry into their house.

HMRC’s latest list from the past year, appears to show that either taxpayers are becoming more inventive with their excuses or that many of them have clearly smoked something illegal before putting pen to paper.

So here are some of the unbelievable excuses from the past year:

  • My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me
  • I’m too short to reach the post box
  • I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me, and my third maid was very slow to learn
  • I registered for self-assessment by mistake because I was not wearing my glasses
  • My boiler had broken and my fingers were too cold to type
  • On my way to the Post Office a bird flew in the window of my car and I crashed
  • I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome and can’t leave the bathroom
  • My budgie knocked over my red wine, all over the computer keyboard
  • As a registered member of the Anarchist Federation, the State can’t compel me to send in a tax return

And my personal favourite is a spin on the popular perennial excuse; my pet ate my tax return:

My dog ate my tax return and must have liked the taste because she also ate all the reminders.

What is your Tax Return Trouble?

As well as the dark arts-inspired tax return excuses, HMRC have also published a list of dubious expense claims it’s received. While this year’s crop includes some humdingers, they can’t quite match up to one of last year’s claims of £4.50 per day for 250 days for sausage and chips meal expenses.

So here’s this year’s selection of questionable expense claims:

  • A carpenter claimed £900 for a 55-inch TV and sound bar (to help him price his jobs)
  • £40 a year for five years on extra woolly underwear (it was cold in her office)
  • £756 for pet dog insurance (a florist clearly needs a guard dog)
  • A music subscription to listen at work (borderline plausible!)
  • A family holiday to Nigeria (for stress relief)
  • Wedding suit hire (I was invited by an important customer)
  • £1,108 for Avon cosmetics (she’s a fitness coach and presumably has to look her best)
  • £8,750 for double glazing (you’ve got to be warm to fill in your tax return)
  • Tickets for an Ariana Grande concert (again for stress relief)

And my personal favourite is from the list of excuses that all feature ‘stress relief’:

HMRC publishes these lists every January to raise awareness of the January 31st self-assessment deadline; after which penalties for late submissions start at an initial £100 fixed penalty and after three months increases to £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900.

It will not surprise you to hear that HMRC refused to accept any of the above late submission excuses; because they were either patently untrue or simply not good enough. However, those that are able to provide a reasonable excuse before the deadline did avoid a penalty.

Commenting on the lists, HMRC Director General of customer services said:

“We want to make it as simple as possible for our customers to do their tax returns and the majority make the effort to do theirs right and on time. But each year we still come across some poor excuses and expenses.”

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of customer services
What is your Tax Return Trouble?

HMRC is not the only department to compile these bizarre excuses. In a late accounts excuse that could have been ripped from a Mills and Boon novel, Companies House in September last year revealed that one late filer’s excuse was that he’d found his wife in the bath with their accountant.

My thought on reading this was, “Perhaps the accountant was in the bath trying to get the accounts signed?”