Ten worst excuses for late tax returns

7 January 2015

With the self-assessment tax return deadline of 31 January looming, HM Revenue & Customs has decided to release its list of the worst excuses used by late-filers.

The ten worst excuses usually involve people claiming it was someone else's fault they filed their tax return late. Those blamed include girlfriends, work colleagues, pets and, in one bizarre case, the President of the United States.

If you want to submit a paper copy of your tax return, you must do so by 31 October, following the end of the tax year. For example, for current 2014/15 tax year (ending on 5 April 2015), the deadline for paper returns is midnight on 31 October 2015. HMRC will then calculate what you owe and set a deadline for payment.

However, you can also file online by midnight on 31 January following the end of the tax year, and your bill will be calculated for you automatically (bear in mind that the online deadline applies to both submitting your return and paying what you owe).

This means that the online deadline for the tax year 2014-14 is swiftly looming – those who fail to file and pay their tax bill on time will face a penalty charge. These are:

  • one day late – £100 (even if you have no tax to pay)
  • three months late – £10 for each following day up to a 90-day maximum of £900 (on top of the £100)
  • six months late – £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is greater (as well as the penalties above)
  • 12 months late – £300 or 5% of the tax due, whichever is the higher.


Clearly, HMRC is well used to people using a variety of excuses in order to avoid paying any penalty. The top ten list of worst excuses in full are:

1. My pet dog ate my tax return… and all the reminders.
2. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn't find a postbox or get an internet signal.
3. I fell in with the wrong crowd.
4. I've been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.
5. Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
6. I've been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
7. A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn't give it back.
8. I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.
9. My girlfriend's pregnant.
10. I was in Australia.

Ruth Owen, director general of personal tax at HMRC, said: "People can have a genuine excuse for missing a tax deadline, but owning a pet with a taste for HMRC envelopes isn't one of them.

"You need to file your 2013/14 tax return online, and pay what you owe, by 31 January. But it's best to do it now, to allow plenty of time to sort out any issues with your return. That way, you'll avoid the busy period for our phone lines as the deadline approaches."

You can find more information on filing your return at HMRC's new Facebook page: http://ow.ly/FFcYk.

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