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HMRC reveals worst SA penalty excuses

14th Jan 2016
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From hungry rodents to five-year arguments, HMRC has published some colourful excuses that were all used in unsuccessful appeals against penalties for late returns.

“My tax papers were left in the shed and a rat ate them,” read the one excuse. Unsurprisingly, the taxman didn’t bite. In another fanciful excuse, a taxpayer said: “I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years”.

But, in light of recent flooding, there are many taxpayers and accountants who have reasonable excuses for late filing. HMRC has conceded that “those affected by flooding at their premises, or their agents’ premises, will not be asked to pay a penalty if their return is submitted without unreasonable delay”.

The department has opened a tax helpline to give practical help and advice to people affected by severe weather and flooding – 0800 904 7900.

“We understand that life can be unpredictable and for those customers who have a genuine excuse for missing the 31 January deadline, such as the flooding, help is at hand,” said Ruth Owen, HMRC director general of personal tax. “My advice would be to contact us through our helplines or online, as soon as possible.”

She added: “We’re here to help people in genuine distress, but not to act as a free lender to people who can’t meet their responsibilities to pay their tax.”

Here are the top 10 unsuccessful excuses used in penalty appeals:

  1. My tax papers were left in the shed and a 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 five years
  10. I had a cold which took a long time to go

Replies (12)

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By SteveHa
15th Jan 2016 09:38

"My laptop broke, so did my

"My laptop broke, so did my washing machine"

I must have missed that announcement. How do we use a washing machine to prepare Tax Returns, or is that just for the money laundering?

Thanks (3)
Chris M
By mr. mischief
15th Jan 2016 10:44

HMRC washing machine

I can now reveal that the HMRC database is powered by a washing machine.  This explains the tendency to spit out random data in all directions when the HMRC staff accidentally leave it on the spin cycle too long.

Thanks (3)
Replying to SteveHa:
By the_Poacher
17th Jan 2016 16:09

Washing machine

Are you suggested that HMRC's figures are laundered?

Thanks (0)
Image PN
By Mr Hankey
15th Jan 2016 12:42

If anyone gets trapped inside, at least they will be in Comfort.

Thanks (1)
Replying to SXGuy:
By mwngiol
15th Jan 2016 13:09


Mr Hankey wrote:

If anyone gets trapped inside, at least they will be in Comfort.

That's a Bold statement.

Thanks (1)
Image PN
By Mr Hankey
15th Jan 2016 13:30

Yes, but...

Yes, your comment is Fairy-enough.

Thanks (1)
By stepurhan
15th Jan 2016 16:11

Related to window tax?

I believe that was charged Persil.

Thanks (0)
By Tom 7000
18th Jan 2016 11:39

Dont worry boys...

It will all come out in the wash...

Thanks (0)
By Intellex
18th Jan 2016 12:00

Can we have a list of the best ones? I think I will be requiring a few the way this January is going..

Thanks (0)
By tedbuck
18th Jan 2016 13:09


All this mockery of my excuse about the washing machine is very unkind.

My laptop broke and the passwords to the system were inadvertently left in my trousers back pocket which was washed in the washing machine. The machine then broke and wouldn't disgorge the trousers so I couldn't rescue the passwords (they were probably ruined anyway and use them on another computer. Time pressures (it was about the day after Christmas) didn't allow HMRC to get me another pass word so I couldn't file. I did try valiantly to speak to HMRC but couldn't get through. and after my 'phone bill arrived I thought the penalty was probably cheaper than hanging on.

Happy New Year!


Thanks (0)
Replying to BeataKl:
By Ken of Chester le Street
22nd Jan 2016 16:37


Thanks for spotting your own excuse- on the assumption it really as you!


Unfortunately it does read a bit like the Hoffnung: "Coming down, I encountered the barrel coming up....." story. 


although for you it wasn't funny!

Thanks (0)
By WallyGandy
18th Jan 2016 21:17

Not another one..... there's more

Hope you can still Surf the net and see Dazzling sites in comfort - not too starchy....

OK OK I'm going to hang upside down from the rafters now.......


Thanks (1)