As accountants and tax specialists, we occasionally have clients who ask us, how can I put this, “challenging” questions. We bow to nobody in our desire to help our clients pay only the tax they owe, however, often their questions (a recent example was “can I claim on the summerhouse I’m having built if I say I’ll use it as an office?”) bring a wry smile to the lips, followed by a polite and professional “sorry, I don’t really think that would wash with HMRC.” However, our clients are mere amateurs when it comes to really good excuses, as revealed by HMRC.
A few years ago, in 2014, the best excuses for not submitting a tax return on time included:
- My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them (makes a change from the dog ate my homework, but see below for the reappearance of the dog).
- 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 5 years
- I had a cold which took a long time to go
Last year, the UK taxpayer was being even more creative in coming up with reasons for not filing their returns on time. The best, by a country mile, was “My wife was seeing aliens and won’t let me re-enter the house.”
Other enterprising individuals came up with some other beauties, including “I’ve been busy touring the country with my one-man play”; “my return is upstairs but I suffer from vertigo and can’t retrieve it”; “my business doesn’t really do anything”; and, “I spilt coffee on it.”
In addition, one person tried to claim for the same meal, every day for 250 days, while another thought that birthday drinks were a suitable claim and yet another chanced their arm by trying to claim for vets’ fees for their pet rabbit.
In one word, our advice is … “don’t.” It’s far easier to tell the truth, claim what is legitimate and pay the tax that is due. We’ll help you not pay tax you don’t need to and then everyone is happy. Oh, and in case you had forgotten, the deadline for sending your 2016-17 tax returns is Jan 31st.