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‘My husband left me and took our accountant’: top excuses for late tax returns

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
From wasps to headaches to dogs, HM Revenue & Customs has revealed the unusual excuses people who failed to file their tax return on time have used.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should be aware that the deadline for submitting your 2015/16 tax return to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2017 – the same day every year. See’s Top tips to get your tax return in order.

If you miss the deadline, you could face hundreds of pounds worth of fines.

Each year, HMRC receives a range of excuses from taxpayers who didn’t complete their forms in time – and some are pretty creative.

Here are some of the most unusual:

  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.

HMRC does show leniency when it comes to genuine excuses, but you may need to show evidence. The ten listed above were all declined on the basis that they were either untrue or not good enough reasons.

If you know you’ll be submitting the tax return late, you may be able to avoid a penalty if you provide HMRC with a reasonable excuse before the 31 January deadline.

For those new to self-assessment, you’ll need to register online first. Self assessment individuals can also submit their return via their Personal Tax Account – it takes five minutes to sign up for an account.

Help is available from the same website or you can call the helpline on 0300 200 3310.

The penalties to avoid

If you file late, here are the penalties you can expect to pay:

  • An 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, six months and 12 months.

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.”

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