Top 10 'oddest excuses' for sending in a late tax return

2 January 2014

The deadline for filling in - and paying - your online tax return is looming yet people come up with the most bizarre excuses for not paying it on time, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The top excuse listed by the taxman is from a self-employed builder who claimed he hadn't filed in his tax return on time because his pet goldfish had died.

Second on the list came from a Midlands farmer who had a 'run-in with a cow'. The third was from a Londoner who said she couldn't concentrate on anything after seeing a volcanic eruption on the news.

Other excuses from tardy taxpayers included one self-employed trader saying that his wife won't give him his mail, a hairdresser from Leicester who blamed her husband for telling her the deadline was 31 March, and a taxi driver who said he couldn't go upstairs to get his tax return because of a bad back.

Meanwhile, one man from the South East said he was cruising around the world on his yacht and could only pick up his post when on dry land and one financial services firm from Kent claimed that "our business doesn't really do anything".

Most surprisingly, one London accountant said he was so busy submitting his clients' tax returns that he didn't have time to do his own.

Pay the penalty

While it seems that not all taxpayers take submitting their returns by the 31 January deadline seriously, the penalties for not paying your tax bill on time are high.

You can be fined an initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay.

After three months, there are additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900.

Leave it six months and there is a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater. Leave it a year and you could have to stump up another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater.

HMRC's director general of personal tax Ruth Owen said: "There will always be unforeseen events that mean a taxpayer could not file their tax return on time. However, your pet goldfish passing away isn't one of them.

"If you haven't yet sent your 2013/14 tax return to HMRC, you need to do it online and pay the tax you owe by the end of January. With all the help and advice available, there's no excuse not to."

To register for HMRC Online Services, go to - and do it now as it takes a few days to receive your online activation code in the post.

Top 10 'oddest excuses' for not filing on alone tax return on time

1.  My pet goldfish died (self-employed builder).
2.  I had a run-in with a cow (Midlands farmer).
3.  After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn't concentrate on anything else (London woman).
4.  My wife won't give me my mail (self-employed trader).
5.  My husband told me the deadline was 31 March, and I believed him (Leicester hairdresser).
6.  I've been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play (Coventry writer);
7.  My bad back means I can't go upstairs. That's where my tax return is (a working taxi driver).
8.  I've been cruising round the world in my yacht and only picking up post when I'm on dry land (South East man).
9.  Our business doesn't really do anything (Kent financial services firm).
10.  I've been too busy submitting my clients' tax returns (London accountant).

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