24th May 2021 / Tax

The dog ate my return...and other excuses

It's never too early to sort your tax return. As we're now into the next tax year it's the perfect time to get ahead and sort your tax return. P60's will be in the post shortly (if you need one) so you should have everything you need to get it sorted nice and early. So you won't end up on HMRC's top ten excuses list!

Traditionally, HMRC publishes their top ten excuses and expense claims every year or so. These are our favourite excuses from over the years that did not quite cut the mustard with HMRC:

  1. My boiler had broken and my fingers were too cold to type.
  2. I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me, and my third maid was very slow to learn.
  3. My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.
  4. My dog ate the post.
  5. My hamster ate the post.
  6. My papers were in the shed and a rat ate them.
  7. My husband ran over my laptop.
  8. I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years.
  9. My accountant has been ill.
  10. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal.

HMRC have very clear guidelines on what they do consider to be a reasonable excuse for filing a tax return late and, as you'd probably expect, this is very clearly laid out. It includes the death of a close loved one, serious illness and hospital admission. It also details service issues with the online portal, postal delays and some acts of God.

The penalty for not completing your tax return increases in stages:

  • If it is even a day late you can be fined £100.
  • If it is three months late the fine will be £10 per day up to 90 days - plus your initial £100 fine.
  • At six months late you get the above penalties, plus a £300 fine OR 5% of tax owed.
  • If you are over a year late, you could face the above penalties plus be fined the same amount as you owe in tax.

In all fairness, HMRC did give businesses a bit of breathing space earlier in the year due to Covid-19. Anyone who failed to meet the January 31st deadline was given until February 28th to submit their return online with the assurance that they would not receive a penalty before that time. As we've said before though when we spoke about VAT receipts, HMRC aren't the most sympathetic and they have set criteria for what they will or won't accept as a valid excuse for being late.

We can't stress enough that it is never too early to start thinking about your tax return. If it's something that you find stressful or you don't know where to start, why not have a chat and see how we can help you.


We are Nottingham based accountants, who can help you with your Tax and other accounting needs. We're using cloud accounting to make processes like returns even easier for our customers, for more information about this, get in touch.

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