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Tax witch conjures curse for returns filer

A decade of tax return excuses boils down to a witches curse as HMRC reveals the most weird and wonderful self assessment excuses of the decade.

17th Jan 2020
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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Silhouette of witches standing over cauldron

Fires are burning and cauldrons are bubbling for one cursed tax filer who wins the somewhat worthless prize from HMRC for the most ridiculous late filing excuse of the decade.

A witch’s curse claims a ‘special’ sourcery, preventing the filer in questions from submitting their return on time. It’s an enchanting tale that readers may have heard before, but not enough to charm HMRC into a deadline extension.

Naturally, a list of excuses for any unaccomplished chore would not be complete without the classic ‘the dog ate my homework’ response. Tax returns, which have been eaten by any variety of household pets over the last decade, will always be a staple alibi for any absent homework. 

Of course, other claimants prefer to use a little more imagination when constructing the perfect excuse. An adventure in exotic lands, perhaps? Or just a hike in an unspecified Welsh mountain.

Here is the leaderboard for the decade’s ‘best’ excuses:

  1. My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me
  2. A DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the deck….in a bowls club
  3. I’ve been cruising around the world in my yacht and only picking up post when I’m on dry land
  4. My hamster ate my post
  5. My dog ate the post … again (every year)
  6. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal

As if cursed tax return excuses weren’t enough, HMRC has also provided a list of the most eccentric expense claims of the decade, ranging from chow for a miniature canine guard, to a cheeky caravan rental:

  1. Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’
  2. A music subscription so I can listen to music while I work
  3. Claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days
  4. Caravan rental for the Easter weekend

Despite the special acknowledgement from HMRC, it is worth noting that all the excuses and expenses listed above were unsuccessful. However, recognition is due for the level of imagination and effort that went into these claimants’ creative approach to tax tardiness.

HMRC director general Angela MacDonald said: “Each year, we try to make it as easy and simple as possible for our customers to complete their tax returns. But, we still come across some unusual excuses and expenses which range from problems with a mother-in-law to yachts set on fire.

Keen followers of HMRC’s annual list should recognise the ‘my mother-in-law is a witch’ excuse from last year. HMRC had plenty of clunkers to choose from, with many ridiculous claims not making the decade list, including a taxpayer who claimed they couldn’t file because their wife saw aliens and won’t let them enter the house and another claimed a rat ate their tax papers.

However, it will be another year’s wait until HMRC reveals the next winners of the top ‘bogus claims’, and for most, the wait will be a lot easier than coming up with next year's 'extenuating circumstances'.

HMRC publishes this list every January to raise awareness of the January 31 self assessment deadline. Penalties for late tax returns start at an initial £100 fixed penalty and after three months increases to £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900.

You can also view HMRC’s YouTube video on its top ten excuses and expenses, which summarises the farcical selection with a level of frivolity rarely associated with the UK tax department.

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