HMRC reveals the late-filing excuses that won't wash

Contractors who aren’t among the 24,228 people who filed their tax return over Christmas are warned that even the most imaginative excuses for missing the deadline probably won’t wash.

Speaking last week, HM Revenue & Customs said that although self-assessors might have a genuine excuse for missing the upcoming January 31st deadline, exotics ones normally don’t count.

 “I was in Australia” for example is one of the 10 worst excuses that taxpayers gave last year in a bid to dodge being fined for not self-assessing before the end of this month. According to HMRC, the others are:

1. My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.

2. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.

3. I fell in with the wrong crowd.

4. I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.

5. Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.

6. I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.

7. A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.

8. I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.

9. My girlfriend’s pregnant.

Ruth Owen, HMRC Director General of Personal Tax reflected: “People can have a genuine excuse for missing a tax deadline, but owning a pet with a taste for HMRC envelopes isn’t one of them.”

Indeed, most of the excuses that are acceptable tend to be the more mundane – there were service issues with HMRC’s website, for example, or your computer software failed.

But even if a taxpayer’s excuse (assuming they file after Jan 31st) doesn’t exactly match the list of those that HMRC deems ‘reasonable,’ they have previously been urged to tell the Revenue anyway, as some circumstances are acceptable but aren’t listed.

However Ms Owen advised taxpayers not to risk it or to even delay. “You need to file your 2013/14 tax return online and pay what you owe by 31st of January, but it’s best to do it now," she said. "Allow plenty of time to sort out any issues with your return. That way, you’ll avoid the busy period for our phone lines as the deadline approaches.”

Editor's Note: Related Reading -

When there’s no penalty for an incorrect tax return

More self-assessors at risk of HMRC penalties

Contractors’ Questions: How to show a loss on my tax return?

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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