Jessica Fino 21 Dec 2016 11:45am

The top ten worst excuses for late tax returns

HMRC has revealed the most bizarre excuses it received from taxpayers who didn’t complete their tax return on time

From dogs eating tax returns to blaming the postman, the following excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties:

1. My tax return was on my yacht, which caught fire.

2. A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed.

3. My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for ten days.

4. My dog ate my tax return...and all of the reminders.

5. 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.

6. My child scribbled all over the tax return, so I wasn't able to send it back.

7. I work for myself, but a colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it and lost it.

8. My husband told me the deadline was the 31 March.

9. My internet connection failed.

10. The postman doesn’t deliver to my house.

The deadline for sending 2015-16 self-assessment tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2017.

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.”

HMRC said that customers who provide a reasonable excuse before the deadline can avoid a penalty after this date.

However, the excuse must be genuine and HMRC might ask for evidence.

The Revenue said that the excuses were all declined on the basis that they were either untrue or not good enough reasons.

Richard Morley, partner at BDO’s tax dispute resolution, said, “HMRC does take genuine reasons or circumstances into account if a taxpayer fails to submit a return on time or pays their tax late.

“However, given that paper returns are required to be submitted before 31 October after the tax year and can then only be submitted online up to the filing deadline of 31 January, it is somewhat pointless to argue that the dog ate the return or somebody else took it, or lost it which seem to feature prominently in the 'top 10' excuses for submission failure listed by HMRC.

“There is still plenty of time to set up an online taxpayer account and submit your return online to HMRC and pay any tax due before 31 January - unless you are genuinely in the middle of the ocean on your yacht in which case, you shouldn't expect much sympathy from HMRC if you fail to submit your return on time."

The penalties for late tax returns are an initial £100 fixed penalty, and additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900, after three months.

After six months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300 is imposed, and after one year, another 5% or £300.

There are also additional penalties for paying late of 5% of the tax unpaid at 30 days, six months and 12 months.