Late Tax Return Excuses: HMRC’s Top 10

[p-lead]HMRC can’t have much to laugh about at this time of year, let’s be honest. But at least the drudgery of processing all those tax return is mitigated ever so slightly by the absurd excuses they receive from people who were tardy sending their forms in.[/p-lead]

So every year HMRC publish a list of the best/worst reasons for our and their own amusement. And this time round there are some hackneyed excuses that can be applied to nearly all situations and others that are a tad more unbelievable.


  • My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.
  • I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal.
  • I fell in with the wrong crowd.
  • I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.
  • Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
  • I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
  • A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.
  • I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.
  • My girlfriend’s pregnant.
  • I was in Australia.


We have to admit that the prospect of becoming a father or mother and a holiday down under would no doubt make you forget all about your tax obligations, but they will not be accepted by HMRC as legitimate excuses. So be warned!

Don’t get stung by fines for late tax return submission by knowing your deadlines and giving yourself enough time to get everything filled in. Or you can always offload the work to our team of specialist tax accountants. Just a thought.

Although we’d always recommend getting your tax return in on time, if you miss the deadline you can appeal against certain penalties as long as you have a “reasonable excuse” for filing or paying late.

According to the Telegraph: “HMRC said this is normally something unexpected or outside your control such as your partner died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline, you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs or your computer failed when you were preparing your online return. It said service issues with HMRC’s website, a serious fire or postal delays may also be acceptable reasons.”

This will be good news for some as errors on HMRC’s website are not uncommon. And the same can be said of the postal service and computer problems. We don’t know how HMRC could possibly investigate an appeal on the grounds of computer failures. Also, don’t forget that the HMRC tax helplines have come under fire for their long waiting times.

In case you didn’t know, it’s now too late to file a paper return. The deadline for 2013/14 passed on October 31 so you’ll need to file online (computer problems are looking like a reasonable excuse now!). But to be able to do this, you must be registered for HMRC Online Services. This isn’t a 5-minute process though: you’ll need to get an HMRC Activation Code which can take up to 10 days to receive in the post, so you’ll need to act fast if you’re still no closer to getting your tax affairs in order.

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