As the rush to file outstanding 2013 tax returns gathers pace, HMRC have published ten of the “oddest” excuses for late filing of returns in previous years. Readers should note that none of the excuses were successful!

In no particular order they are:

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); and

10. I’ve been too busy submitting my clients’ tax returns (London accountant).

HMRC’s director general of personal tax, Ruth Owen is quoted as saying:

 “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 2012/13 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.”

However, there are reasonable excuses that HMRC will accept. They include:

  • a failure in the HMRC computer system
  • your computer breaks down just before or during the preparation of your online return
  • a serious illness, disability or serious mental health condition has made you incapable of filing your tax return
  • you registered for HMRC Online Services but didn't get your Activation Code in time

According to HMRC a “reasonable excuse” is when some unforeseeable or unusual event beyond your control has prevented you from filing your return. It would seem that the death of a goldfish in the family is not unusual enough…

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