31 January is, of course, the personal tax return deadline. And, with 8 days left, there are still lots of returns still to be filed.

11.7 million people are due to file a 2018/19 return by 31 January 2020. As of 31 December, 5.4 million were still outstanding.

Usually, around 33% of all returns are filed in last week, and there were over 750,000 late returns last year. With a minimum £100 fine for each late return, that’s over £75 million in fines!

However, to prove the taxman is fun, HMRC always release their funniest list of excuses for missing that deadline. And this year, they’ve rounded up their favourite excuses from the last decade.

So, here they are:

  • 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
  • My hamster ate my post
  • I’ve been cruising around the world in my yacht and only picking up post when I’m on dry land
  • A DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the decks….in a bowls club
  • My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me

They also revealed their favourite dodgy expenses claims for the decade:

  • Caravan rental for the Easter weekend
  • Claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days
  • A music subscription so I can listen to music while I work
  • Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’

As you can imagine, none of the excuses or expenses was accepted.

[My favourite from a couple of years ago was when someone claimed that their ex-wife left the tax return upstairs and they couldn’t go and get it because they suffer from vertigo.]

So, what excuses do work?

HMRC will accept a “reasonable excuse”. There isn’t a legal definition, but this must be an “an unexpected or unusual event, either unforeseeable or beyond the customer’s control, which prevents him from complying with an obligation when he would otherwise have done”.

Examples include:

  • Bereavement – the death of a close relative near to the deadline
  • Serious illness, eg coma, heart attack or stroke
  • Being on active service overseas with the Armed Forces

What’s the fine if I’m late?

There’s an immediate £100 fine if you miss the deadline at midnight on 31 January.

From 1 May, you’ll get charged an extra £10 per day for the next 90 days, ie up to £900 extra.

If you pass 31 July, there’s an additional fine – this time it’s the larger of £300 or 5% of the tax owed. And it’s the same again if you’re a year late – another £300 or 5% of the tax.

And then there’s interest added as well!

As an example, if you’re over 6 months late, you’ll be fined a minimum of £1,300! So it’s well worth getting it in on time.

If you found this useful, please share it using the icons at the side of the page, or leave a comment below.

Any questions?

If you’d like a meeting or a Skype call to discuss this, please get in touch with your favourite Liverpool accountant