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HMRC reveal contractor’s oddest excuses for sending late tax returns

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It’s coming close to that time of year again, when all contractors and those who are self-employed need to ensure that their tax returns are in on time by the 31st January.

Handing in your income tax self-assessment is required by law, as it will inform HM Revenue and Customs how much tax you need to pay after the working year.  Calculations are worked out from the information you fill on your tax return, which will include any capital gains you may have made on business assets and any expenses that you are claiming. 

You can face hefty fines for failing to hand your tax return in on time, for example, being one day late could result in a £100 fine and being three months late is £10 per day up to a maximum of £900…

Having a good accountant really can be a godsend at this time of year, especially if you don’t have much time to concentrate on filling out your tax return if you’re busy running your business, or if you’re not quite sure how to do it properly.

Excuses Excuses!

And so, with the tax return date looming, HMRC have revealed the ‘Top 10 oddest excuses’ for sending in a late return:

  1. My pet goldfish died (self-employed builder)
  2. I had a run-in with a cow (Midlands farmer)
  3. After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else (London woman)
  4. My wife won’t give me my mail (self-employed trader)
  5. My husband told me the deadline was 31 March, and I believed him (Leicester hairdresser)
  6. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play (Coventry writer)
  7. My bad back means I can’t go upstairs. That’s where my tax return is (a working taxi driver)
  8. I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land (South East man)
  9. Our business doesn’t really do anything (Kent financial services firm)
  10. I’ve been too busy submitting my clients’ tax returns (London accountant) 

All of these people and businesses received a £100 penalty from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for filing late. They appealed against the decision using these excuses, but were unsuccessful.

HMRC’s Director General of Personal Tax, Ruth Owen, said, “There will always be unforeseen events that mean a taxpayer could not file their tax return on time. However, your pet goldfish passing away isn’t one of them.

If you haven’t yet sent your 2012 to 2013 tax return to HMRC, you need to do it online and pay the tax you owe by the end of January. With all the help and advice available, there’s no excuse not to.” 

For more help and advice with self-assessment and completing your tax return, visit our free guide An Introduction to Self-Assessment, you may also find our page Penalties for Late Returns useful.

Visit the official HM Revenue & Customs Self-Assessment page directly by clicking here.

For just £120 + VAT per month, SJD Accountancy offers an all-inclusive fixed fee accountancy package, which covers:

  • Year-end accounts*
  • Corporation tax
  • Payroll bureau
  • Dividend administration
  • Dealing with HM Revenue and Customs and Companies House
  • Quarterly VAT Calculations 
  • Support with Annual Returns
  • Personal Taxation
  • Access to your own dedicated accountant* for all help and advice
  • Free bookkeeping software

For more information on contracting, or our accountancy package, speak to a member of our new business team on 01442 275789 or email

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