10 Reasons for late Tax Returns

10 Reasons for late tax returns

Authored by Kelly Burton

Kelly Burton

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Approximate read time: 5 minutes

Who said HMRC doesn’t have a sense of humour? Possibly the people who made the following excuses. Once again, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has issued a list of excuses given by individuals who were submitting a late tax return.

Top excuses

Topping the list of excuses in 2014 was the laughable –

“My pet goldfish died.”

Pets can be like another member of the family, and the loss of them can be an upsetting experience. However, a goldfish isn’t a particularly high maintenance pet, and using the death of one as an excuse for submitting a late tax return isn’t going to win you any sympathy.

That year’s list also featured such comedic gems as:

“My husband told me the deadline was 31st March, and I believed him.”

When you make a mistake, it can be an instinctive, if a rather unfair reaction to try and put the blame on someone else. Other people’s knowledge, or what they ‘think’ is right, might not be.

If you decide to make your own money outside of employment, you should make yourself aware of all the important deadlines and proceedings, so you’re not caught out when the submission date rolls around.

“I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play.”

Working for yourself can be a wonderful experience; the ability to be your own boss and do whatever you want – however off the wall and bizarre it is.

However, while it’s easy to get immersed in what you have passion for and distract from all the extra admin work to do on top of the day-to-day running, you should make it your business to remember when everything as important as your tax returns are due.


“I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land.”

Congratulations on being able to afford a yacht and travel the world in it, but lack of access to post isn’t a good enough reason to not pay your tax; email reminders can reach any corner of the world, especially if the yacht has Wi-Fi. You can also submit your tax return via HMRC’s online portal without having to post it. This method also allows you more time to complete the submission.

2015’s list included a similar calibre of juvenile excuses, such as:

“I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.”

If you’re spending an extended period away from any form of communicative technology, perhaps submitting before you went adventuring in Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons would have been an idea? If you’re away for so long that you couldn’t do your tax return, how you survived up a mountain for such a length of time is another question (and we don’t think this was Bear Grylls, either).

“I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency,”

While logging onto your HMRC profile from anywhere in the world could give away your location to this ‘foreign intelligence agency’, if this is a problem you’re legitimately facing, maybe a late tax return is the least of your worries?

“Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.”

How you got the 44th President of the United States to take charge of your accounts is a question in itself. But even if we ignore that, Obama had a lot to worry about in his time in office, and the tax returns of one self-employed person from Britain was probably near the bottom of his list of priorities.

At least Obama was open about his own tax affairs though.

The list was topped by the almost tongue-in-cheek:

“My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.”

We’re guessing this is the adult’s version of ‘the dog ate my homework’?

There are no prizes for the best excuse – just a £100 fine initially, with additional penalties if it is left longer, and HMRC doesn’t always see the funny side. Even these two won’t work…

“My girlfriend’s pregnant,”


“I was in Australia.”

Who must file a tax return?

The Guardian quoted that over 10 million tax returns were submitted for the 2012/13 tax year.

Most employees with straightforward tax affairs no longer have to submit a return, but the self-employed – sole traders and partners – have to.

So too do individuals with more complex tax situations – significant investment income, property rentals, foreign earnings, etc. Company directors invariably will be sent a personal tax return to complete too, so there are plenty of people affected. Interestingly, ministers of religion are also required to submit a return.

Why wait?

If you’re hesitating because you’re concerned that you cannot afford to pay what is due, contact Wilson Field. Financial difficulties don’t have to result in bankruptcy, and we can negotiate with HMRC on your behalf and arrange to pay off arrears via an informal Time to Pay Arrangement (TTP). If for any reason HMRC is reluctant to enter such an arrangement, then an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) could be suitable, enabling you to continue trading and without financial pressure.

It’s better to tackle the issue and resolve it, as opposed to avoiding completing your tax return, and then offer HMRC an excuse. For a better outcome, contact Wilson Field without delay.

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