My dog ate my tax return

18 January 2016

The deadline for Self Assessment returns is 31 January.

HMRC has revealed that excuses submitted included:

  1. My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them
  2. I’m not a paperwork orientated person – I always relied on my sister to complete my returns but we have now fallen out
  3. My accountant has been ill
  4. My dog ate my tax return
  5. I will be abroad on deadline day with no internet access so will be unable to file
  6. My laptop broke, so did my washing machine
  7. My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my log in details to complete my return online
  8. My husband ran over my laptop
  9. I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for 5 years
  10. I had a cold which took a long time to go

These excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late returns.

Last year HMRC announced that it would be fairer on those with genuine excuses as they focus their penalties on larger, deliberate tax evaders rather than ordinary people. This remains the case, but the excuse must be genuine and evidence may need to be presented. The ten listed above were all declined on the basis they were either untrue or not good enough reasons.

This year, HMRC will be accepting reasonable excuses up front before the deadline to avoid penalties after the deadline.

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.

Help is available from the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/self-assessment-tax-returns or from the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310.