Press release

HMRC reveals Top 10 worst tax return excuses for 2014

As the Self Assessment deadline approaches on 31 January, HMRC reveals some of the worst excuses submitted last year for late tax returns.

Finding Self Assessment Inner Peace

The ten worst excuses for missing the 31 January Self Assessment deadline for 2013 to 14 have today been revealed by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

From broken kitchen appliances, hungry pets and arguments that last five years – some people will stop at nothing to pass the blame for their tardy timekeeping. Some of the excuses submitted included:

  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 5 years
  10. I had a cold which took a long time to go

The excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late returns.

While HMRC will not accept spurious excuses when the vast majority hit the deadline and pay up what they owe, we do recognise that a number taxpayers may have difficulties completing their tax return on time. For instance, 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 also opened a Tax Helpline to give practical help and advice to people affected by severe weather and flooding – 0800 904 7900.

Ruth Owen, HMRC Director General of Personal Tax, said:

Untidy family members and hungry pets are very unlikely to be accepted as a legitimate excuse for completing your tax return late.

We understand that life can be unpredictable and for those customers who have a genuine excuse for missing the 31 January deadline, such as the flooding, help is on hand. 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. 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.

The deadline for sending 2014-15 tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2016.

Notes for Editors

  1. If you are submitting your 2014-15 Self Assessment return online for the first time, you will need to register for SA Online. Registering for online filing is simple – you can do it at online.hmrc.gov.uk/registration.
  2. Last year HMRC announced that it would be fairer on those with genuine excuses as we focus our penalties on larger, deliberate tax evaders rather than ordinary people. This remains the case, but the excuse must be genuine and evidence may need to be presented. The ten listed above were all declined on the basis they were either untrue or not good enough reasons.
  3. This year, HMRC will be accepting reasonable excuses up front before the deadline to avoid penalties after the deadline.
  4. Help is available from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns or from the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310.
  5. The deadline for Self Assessment returns is 31 January.
  6. There are also additional penalties for paying late of 5% of the tax unpaid at 30 days, 6 months and 12 months.
  7. Follow HMRC’s press office on Twitter @HMRCpressoffice.
  8. HMRC’s Flickr channel: www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk.
  9. The penalties for late tax returns are:
    • an initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay, or if the tax due is paid on time;
    • after 3 months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900;
    • after 6 months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater; and
    • after 12 months, another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater.
Published 15 January 2016