By Lynne Gowers on 19th January 2018

Dear HMRC, sorry my tax return is late. It was aliens!

As we approach the self-assessment tax return deadline of 31st January, HMRC have revealed the top excuses for late submissions in the last year.
One taxpayer bizarrely claimed that he was prevented from completing his tax return on time because his wife was seeing aliens and wouldn’t let him in the house. Now that’s quite a stretch by anyone’s standards!

Almost 11 million people in the UK are required to do an annual self-assessment tax return, usually because they are self-employed or have multiple sources of income.

Last year, nearly 33,000 people filed in the hour leading up to the deadline of midnight on 31st January, while a further 840,000 missed the deadline completely.

Hefty penalties

Missing the deadline means being instantly stung by a £100 fine and if you then fail to file within three months you’ll incur a penalty of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900.

HMRC’s Director General of customer services, Angela Macdonald, said:

“Each year we’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return. But each year we still come across some questionable excuses, whether that’s blaming a busy touring schedule or seeing aliens.”
“However, help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time.”

Top 5 failed excuses for late tax returns

In certain circumstances HMRC will waive penalties or grant an extension if you have reasonable justification, for example a hospital stay or postal strike. But the taxman was less accommodating of the following excuses:

  1. I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house
  2. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play
  3. My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it
  4. My business doesn’t really do anything
  5. I spilt coffee on it

Top 5 dubious expense claims

HMRC was similarly unimpressed by some of the claims for tax-deductible expenses, and reminded taxpayers that only legitimate expenses are acceptable. They released some examples of expense claims that were thrown out:

  1. A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts
  2. Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub
  3. Vet fees for a rabbit
  4. Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco
  5. £4.50 for sausage and chips meal everyday for 250 days

Payment deadline

The self-assessment cut-off date of 31st January is also the date by which HMRC must receive any money you owe. Depending on how you pay your tax bill, ensure you leave enough time for the payment to go through; if you pay by BACS, for example, it takes 3 days.
Also, don’t forget that as of January 13th, HMRC are no longer accepting payment by personal credit card. Read more about this

Not yet filed your self-assessment tax return?

Time is running out but don’t panic. Our personal tax team may still be able to help you prepare and file your self-assessment. Get started by clicking the link below or give us a call.

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Written by Lynne Gowers
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