HMRC reveals the strangest excuses and expense claims on Self-Assessment tax returns it has received in the last decade

17 January 2020

Each year, HMRC customers have a deadline of 31 January to file their Self-Assessment tax returns. With penalties attached to late submission, HMRC has confirmed that it receives some creative and frankly bizarre excuses from those who miss the deadline as they attempt to swerve paying the associated fines. There have also been instances where questionable expenses have been included on those returns and submitted to HMRC.

HMRC has compiled a top ten of the strangest excuses and dubious expenses it’s received in the past ten years, and they are as follows:

10. Caravan rental for the Easter week

9. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal

8. My dog ate the post…. again

7. Claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses (for 250 days)

8. My hamster ate my post

5. I’ve been cruising around the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land

4. A music subscription so I can listen to music while I work

3. Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’

2. A DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the deck….. in a bowls club

1. My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me

Needless to say, none of the excuses and expenses listed above were successful.

The advice given is that HMRC will treat individuals with genuine excuses fairly and that the emphasis is mainly placed on persistent offenders, who regularly miss deadlines or provide incorrect information. There may be occasions where HMRC asks for evidence to support an excuse, so customers should be prepared for this.

Where customers advise HMRC of an acceptable reason for missing the deadline prior to 31 January 2020, they can avoid receiving a penalty notice after that date has passed.

The penalties associated with the late filing of tax returns can be substantial and get progressively higher the later a tax return is. They are as follows:

  • An initial £100 fixed penalty. This is applicable even if there is no tax liability due, or if the tax due is paid on time but the Self-Assessment tax return is filed late
  • After a three month duration, a £10 daily penalty may also be applied, up to a maximum of £900
  • After six months, another penalty of 5% of the tax due, or £300 can be added. The figure added will be whichever is the highest of the two values
  • After a 12 month period, a further 5% or £300 can be added. Again, whichever figure is greater will be added to the bil 

The director general of customer services at HMRC, Angela MacDonald, commented:

“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.

 If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the more we can help.”

There is a dedicated Self-Assessment helpline, and the contact number is 0300 200 3310.


Information provided in this news article may be subject to change. Please make note of the date of publication to ensure that you are viewing up to date information.