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‘My dog ate it’ and other top excuses for filing late tax returns revealed

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
From illness to no internet access or because of the family pet, HMRC today reveals the top 10 excuses used in unsuccessful appeals against penalties for late tax returns.

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

But the top 10 excuses used as to why people filed late, include:

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

HMRC does however recognise that a number of taxpayers may have difficulties completing their tax return on time, such as those affected by the recent floods. It adds that for those affected by flooding at their premises or their agents’ premises, they won’t be asked by pay a penalty if their return is submitted “without unreasonable delay”.

It’s also opened a Tax Helpline to give practical help and advice to people affected by severe weather and flooding – 0800 904 7900.

For anyone wishing to submit their 2014/15 self-assessment return online for the first time, they will need to register first and are advised to do so in advance of the deadline.

Penalties for late tax returns

The penalties for late tax returns are:

  • Initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay, or if the tax due is paid on time
  • 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, 6 months and 12 months.

‘Submit your tax return online by 31 January or face a fine’

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 at 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.”


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