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Self Assessment returns: unbelievable excuses and dubious expenses

A curse by a witch, being too short to reach the post box and cold fingers were among the more outlandish excuses given to HMRC for not completing a tax return on time, with expenses claims for family holidays and 55-inch TVs also being turned down

As the 31 January deadline for self assessment tax returns quickly approaches, HMRC has revealed some of the most bizarre excuses it has received for not paying on time.

Some of the most bizarre excuses HMRC received from customers who missed the Self Assessment deadline include ‘my mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me’ and ‘I’m too short to reach the post box’.

Another claimed they were too busy after three maids had left them throughout the year and one individual blamed their junior member of staff for registering their client in self assessment by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses.

One taxpayer even claimed that their fingers were too cold to type after their boiler had broken down.

As well as unbelievable excuses, HMRC also receives some dubious expenses claims for unconvincing items. Some of the most questionable include:

  • a carpenter claiming £900 for a 55-inch TV and sound bar to help him price his jobs;
  • £40 on extra woolly underwear, for 5 years;
  • £756 for pet dog insurance;
  • a music subscription, so they could listen to music while they worked; and
  • a family holiday to Nigeria.

All these excuses and expenses were unsuccessful.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services, said: ‘We want to make it as simple as possible for our customers to do their tax returns and the majority make the effort to do theirs right and on time. But each year we still come across some poor excuses and expenses which range from problems with maids to televisions.

‘Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time but it’s unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims.’

HMRC says that it will treat those with genuine excuses leniently but the excuse must be genuine and HMRC might ask for evidence. The above excuses were all declined on the basis that they were either untrue or not good enough reasons.

Taxpayers who provide HMRC with a reasonable excuse before the 31 January deadline can avoid a penalty after this date.

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 3 months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900;
  • after 6 months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater; and
  • 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

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