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The top 10 bizarre tax return excuses and expense claims

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
17/01/2020
There are just two weeks to go to file your self-assessment tax return. With the deadline looming, HMRC unveils some of the weirdest excuses and expense claims it has received.

HMRC has probably heard it all as to why tax returns have been submitted after the 31 January deadline. But some of the expense claims it received – and rejected – top the wacky list.

Here are the top 10 most bizarre excuses and questionable expenses claims for items it has received in the past decade:

  • Caravan rental for the Easter weekend
  • I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal
  • My dog ate the post … again
  • Claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days
  • My hamster ate my post
  • I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when on dry land
  • A music subscription so I can listen to music while I work
  • Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’
  • A DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the deck in a bowls club
  • My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC director general of customer services, said: “Each year, we try to make it as easy and simple as possible for our customers to complete their tax returns and the majority make the effort to do theirs right and on time.

“But, we still come across some unusual excuses and expenses which range from problems with a mother-in-law to yachts set on fire.

“We always offer help to those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. It is unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims.”

HMRC added that if anyone believes they may miss the deadline, they should get in touch with the authority now. The earlier they’re contacted, the more it can help.

Those with genuine excuses will be treated leniently compared with those who persistently miss the deadline and deliberately evade tax. However, HMRC may ask you for evidence and if you have a genuine excuse, you may be able to avoid a penalty for submissions after 31 January.

Penalties for late tax returns

The penalties for late tax returns are:

  • 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 penalties of £10 per day may be charged, 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. Interest will be charged on all late payments.

If you’re completing a tax return for the first time, have yet to start or need help, HMRC provides a self-assessment video to view, plus there are guides on the Gov.uk site. You can also call the self-assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310 or contact HMRC via social media (don’t disclose any personal information though).

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