The Best And Worst Excuses For Not Submitting Your Tax Return

The Best And Worst Excuses For Not Submitting Your Tax Return


For most self-employed workers, the Self Assessment tax return deadline date is burned permanently into the brain. Still, people miss the cut-off every year. If you didn’t submit your form by the time the clock struck midnight on 31 January, the taxman will be approaching you very soon, demanding a reason why.

It’s worth noting, however, that a late tax return shouldn’t automatically mean panic stations. HMRC are strict, but not unreasonable. If you have a perfectly valid excuse for missing the Self Assessment deadline, you could be granted an extension.

Here, we weigh up the good reasons against the bad.

Reasonable excuses for missing the Self Assessment tax return deadline…

Life happens, and the taxman understands this. Sometimes, people are placed in unenviable positions, leaving them with no alternative but to submit their Self Assessment later than they would have liked. Some of the excuses HMRC will consider include:

  • The death of a partner or close relative during the immediate period before the deadline
  • An unexpected illness or admittance to hospital that prevented you from consulting your tax affairs
  • The tax return was lost, stolen or destroyed en route to HMRC and the post service is to blame
  • Tax software failed or crashed in the immediate period before the tax deadline
  • A disability prevented you from submitting your tax return in time
  • Your residence/place of work fell victim to fire, theft or flooding
  • Issues with the HMRC website prevented you from submitting your tax return online successfully

If you can prove any of the above occurred, HMRC may take your appeal for an extension seriously. This is something you can discuss with them over the phone by calling 0300 200 3300.

…and the not-so-reasonable excuses

Over the years, HMRC have published dozens of outlandish statements made by penalised taxpayers.

These range from classics like “my dog ate my tax return” to “my laptop broke”, to the laziest of them all: “I didn’t know about the deadline”. The excuses listed below, though, are the very best of the bunch. They’re all real examples, and unsurprisingly, the taxman didn’t accept a single one.

  • “My tax return was on a yacht… which caught fire”
  • “My husband told me the deadline was 31 March”
  • “My child scribbled all over my tax return so I wasn’t able to send it”
  • “My husband left me and took our accountant with him. I am trying to find a new accountant.”

If the taxman does not accept your excuse for a late Self Assessment submission, you will be liable to pay a penalty.

Penalties for late Self Assessment submissions

HMRC don’t look kindly on taxpayers who miss the Self Assessment tax return deadline without a valid reason. Penalties include:

  • An immediate £100 fine for submitting a Self Assessment after 31 January
  • Daily penalty of £10 per day for up to 90 days after 3 months of no payment
  • 5% of tax due or £300 (whichever is greater) after 6 months of no payment

These fines can vary depending on the severity of your case. But a reliable rule of thumb is that the longer you leave it, the more penalties you will be forced to pay.


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