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Aliens and other top excuses revealed for filing tax returns late

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
From vertigo to businesses ‘not really doing anything’, HM Revenue & Customs reveals the top excuses for late tax returns and the expense claims which were rejected.

The deadline for sending the 2016/17 tax return to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2018.

Every year, HMRC receives weird and wonderful excuses as to why people missed the deadline. Last year, 800,000 missed the deadline, resulting in an automatic £100 penalty.

Today it’s published some of the excuses it received for late submissions:

  1. I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house
  2. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play
  3. My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it
  4. My business doesn’t really do anything
  5. I spilt coffee on it.

As well as the excuses, HMRC also receives some questionable expense claims, including:

  1. A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts
  2. Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub
  3. Vet fees for a rabbit
  4. Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco
  5. £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days.

All of these excuses and expense claims were rejected.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC director general of customer services, said: “Each year we’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return, but each year we still come across some questionable excuses. However, help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time.

“We also receive absurd expense claims from vet fees for a rabbit to room service at a hotel. It is unfair to make honest taxpayers pick up the bill for other people’s spurious claims, so HMRC will only accept sincere claims such as legitimate expenses for a job.”

MacDonald added that if you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, you should get in touch with HMRC now. “The earlier we’re contacted, the more help we can offer,” she said.

Penalties for late tax returns

See’s New to self-assessment? Why you should start your tax return this week for help.

If you do miss the deadline, here are the penalty fees you’ll face:

  • An initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay
  • After three months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900
  • After six months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater
  • After 12 months, another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater.

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

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