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