9am Lowdown: Top tax return excuses revealed

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HMRC issued its traditional gift to seasonal jollity this morning by releasing its annual list of the 10 silliest excuses for failing to submit tax returns on time. Elsewhere, Deloitte was in hot water over a leaked Brexit memo and the AccountingWEB community was presented with a new bumper quiz.

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‘My dog ate my tax returns’: Top excuses revealed

If you put yourselves in a tax inspector’s shoes, the job can be one of unremitting frustration and tedium dealing with the pressures imposed by ludicrously complex rules and procedures, excessive workloads and recalcitrant taxpayers. (The exception to this, of course, is the pleasingly harmonious relationship HMRC staff enjoy with tax advisers).

But just to show the people on the other side of the fence have a sense of humour too, HMRC compiles a list every year of unusual excuses for failing to submit self assessment tax returns on time.

This year’s crop includes some classics, including the age-old canine/homework formula at number 4:

  1. My tax return was on my yacht, which caught fire.
  2. A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed.
  3. My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for ten days.
  4. My dog ate my tax return...and all of the reminders.
  5. I couldn't complete my tax return, because my husband left me and took our accountant with him. I am currently trying to find a new accountant.
  6. My child scribbled all over the tax return, so I wasn't able to send it back.
  7. I work for myself, but a colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it and lost it.
  8. My husband told me the deadline was the 31st March.
  9. My internet connection failed.
  10. The postman doesn’t deliver to my house.

According to HMRC director general for customer services Ruth Owen, “only a small minority” chance their arm with creative excuses like these - all of which were rejected as the basis for appeals.

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Deloitte in hot water over Brexit memo

Big Four firm Deloitte apologised to the government this morning and volunteered to stop bidding for government contracts for six months for the embarrassment it caused when an internal memo about Brexit was leaked.

As revealed in The Times last month, the memo written by a Deloitte consultant suggested the government had no strategy for managing the UK’s departure from the European Union and that splits in the cabinet were holding up policy formulation.

With more than 500 projects underway in Whitehall to support Brexit work, 30,000 civil servants would need to work on the effort. Formulating a negotiating strategy could take as much as six months, which would take us past the March deadline set by prime minister Theresa May for invoking Article 50 to leave the union.

“Deloitte regrets the publication of the two-page note, and has apologised for the unintended disruption it caused government. The note was for internal audiences and was not a Deloitte point of view. We have put forward a plan for working with central government to put this matter behind us,” the firm said.

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MPs call for stronger pension regulation

A committee of MPs has called for the Pensions Regulator to be handed stronger powers to tackle employers who do not maintain their pension schemes.

Recommendations issued by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee include the ability for the regulator to impose “punitive fines” on companies who do not support their pension schemes, and a call for the regulator itself to be reformed. it should intervene much earlier if a scheme is in trouble.

The changes have been suggested in the wake of the BHS pension scheme collapse, which the committee has been investigating.

“It is difficult to imagine the Pensions Regulator would still be having to negotiate with [former owner of BHS] Sir Philip Green if he had been facing a bill of £1bn, rather than £350m,” said committee chair Frank Field MP.

“He would have sorted the pension scheme long ago. The measures we set out in this report are intended to reduce the chance of another scheme going down the BHS route,” the report added.

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Win your own award in community quiz

AccountingWEB’s community awards are back for Christmas 2016 with a new twist - a bumper quiz of the year.

We’ve already had feedback that it can be quite challenging, but persevere. If you can demonstrate superior knowledge of accountancy news and trends in 2016 there will be a small handful of prizes up for grabs.

The quiz ranges across tax, business and technology issues and includes guest questions from the likes of Steve Collings, Simon Hurst and David Lyford-Smith. There’s also a picture round based on some of the imagery that has graced AccountingWEB articles during the past year.

So what are you waiting for? Get quizzing now!

About John Stokdyk

John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight

AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.

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