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11 Unbelievable excuses why a Tax Return was late

It has been a couple of years since a did a Blog on the subject of excuses given by taxpayers, as to why their Tax Returns were submitted late or their failed attempts to get dodgy claims for expenses past the taxman.

HMRC have released their latest list of ‘weird and wonderful’ Self-Assessment excuses for late submission of tax returns and have this year added claims for expenses which they have turned down.

The two lists do make for some great reading and certainly brought a smile to my face, and from past feedback received, most of my readers clearly enjoyed reading them, with many being shared on Facebook and other social media sites.

This year HMRC prefaced their lists with a small comment piece: –

“Most of our customers complete their tax returns honestly and on time but every year HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) receives some outlandish excuses and expense claims. Some of the most bizarre excuses HMRC received from customers who missed the Self-Assessment deadline include being too short to reach the post box and having fingers too cold to type”.

“We also received a host of unusual and unsuccessful excuses used by taxpayers in penalty appeals including excuses ranging from a burning boat to a toddler with a box of crayons. All have been put forward in vain attempts by taxpayers to have their fines wiped out under the ‘reasonable excuse’ provision”.

So, here are this year’s selections of unsuccessful excuses for late submission of tax returns:
  1. I suffer from dwarfism and am therefore too short to reach the post box
  2. My tax return was on my narrow boat, which inexplicably caught fire and then sank
  3. My central heating boiler broke down and my fingers were too cold to type
  4. I broke my reading glasses and can’t afford to buy new ones
  5. My young daughter used my tax return as a colouring book with her crayons
  6. My cat urinated on my tax return and shredded the replacement sharpening his claws
  7. I don’t have a post box within reasonable walking distance from where I live
  8. My aunty works in a bank and told me that I had until the 5th April
  9. I live on a boat and the postman didn’t know where to deliver my mail
  10. The government promised high-speed internet and I’m still waiting
  11. And finally, from a taxpayer in Harlech, who wrote ‘Mae fy mam-yng-nghyfraith yn wrach a melltithiodd hi fi’, which translates as; ‘My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me’

As well as unbelievable excuses, every year HMRC also receive some dubious expenses claims for unconvincing items like frilly underwear and pet insurance. Some of the most questionable include:

Dubious Expence Claims

  • A carpenter who claimed £900 for a 55-inch TV and sound bar to help him price his jobs
  • A website designer who claimed £400 on fancy underwear, every year for 5 years, apparently to help her creative thought process
  • A delivery driver who spent £756 to insure his dog which he claimed was a security measure
  • A bookkeeper claimed for an iTunes music subscription, so she could listen to music whilst working
  • A company director who claimed £3,200 on a family holiday to Disney Florida to ‘de-stress’

It will not surprise anyone that despite some clearly inventive reasoning, the success rate in the various claims and appeals published today was not very high and all the excuses in today’s Blog all failed.

Tax Accountant’s Favourite Excuse(s)

And finally, my personal favourite was from a taxpayer in Manchester who didn’t submit his tax return on time and on reading his excuse, I think his accountant was probably right:

‘My accountant implied that I was stupid and I promise to get my tax return sent in once he has apologised.’
HMRC’s view

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 which range from problems with maids to televisions.

Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time but it’s unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims.

If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the more we can help.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services

Image of David Jones Shrewsbury Accountant and Founder of Morgan Jones

Tax Accountant’s Reminder

The deadline for sending 2018 to 2019 Self-Assessment tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2020.

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.