Every year, HMRC receives imaginative excuses and expense claims following the 31 January self assessment deadline from out of control guard dogs to a DJ too busy to fill in his form
One of the top excuses for missing the deadline was the classic ‘my dog ate the post’ while another tried a novel approach, claiming their hamster was to blame. Perhaps most amusing was a fruitless attempt to claim expenses on pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’. Obviously the guard dog has had enough of HMRC not paying out for his protein shakes.
Another hapless taxpayer attempted to claim back their music subscription because they ‘enjoyed playing tunes while they work’. After being turned down by HMRC, the taxpayer will not be able to claim their music subscription, but pay like the rest of us, or try the free version if they're really that tight. They might be able to hear the faint sound of someone playing the world’s smallest violin.
In second place was a party loving DJ was ‘too busy spinning the decks in a bowls club’ - yes, a bowls club - to submit on time, and the top excuse of the decade for a late tax return, and one you'd never forget, was the chap who claimed the were ‘cursed by their mother-in-law who is a witch’.
One of the cheekiest was a claim for the same lunch every day for the whole working year - inevitably rejected out of hand, probably a good think for this taxpayer's cholesterol count. Showing a total lack of culinary imagination, the claimant tried to slip through a bill for £1,125 for the same lunch, or should it be breakfast, for a daily dose of sausage and chips for £4.50 for 250 days. Clearly not on veganuary then.
Needless to say, the excuses and expenses were all unsuccessful.
This year's self assessment deadline is Friday 31 January, coinciding with Brexit day. It is worth trying to submit your online return before the midnight deadline as there is always a last-minute surge of submissions. It is not unknown for HMRC's IT system struggling to deal with the sheer volume of traffic. With penalties for late submission kicking in immediately at £100, it is not worth missing tax return D-day.
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.
Aside from the bizarre excuses given above, HMRC reassures taxpayers that they will treat those with genuine excuses leniently, as they focus their penalties on those who persistently fail to complete their tax returns and deliberate tax evaders. The excuse must be genuine and they might ask for evidence.
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, six months and 12 months. Interest will be charged on all late payments.
If taxpayers think they might miss the 31 January deadline, HMRC advises people to contact their self assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310.