The deadline for UK self assessment tax returns is coming up again at midnight on January 31st, and with it the usual excuses. We’ve trawled through the best ones that HMRC have made public over the last few years and picked out ten to try and break down. How might they have happened – and are any actually plausible?
1. “After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else” (London woman)
This is a promising start. 2013 was an annus horribilis of volcanic eruptions, with notable activity in Sicily, Alaska and Indonesia. Assuming the individual in question suffers from Ifestíophobia – the fear of volcanoes – this was probably equivalent to how everyone else felt throughout 2016.
However, none of those volcanoes posed a particularly imminent threat to the claimant’s home in the UK. 2010 may have provided a more feasible excuse with the travel chaos caused by Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which newsreaders the world over hope never erupts again.
Excuse validity 4/10
2. “My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them”
The most interesting implication here is the reference to “the” rat, clearly a known occupant of the shed. Maybe the person in question knew the rat was there before it ate the paperwork, and innocently assumed it would leave it well alone.
Perhaps they felt a shared remorse for the act, and the respondent continued to host the papyrophilic rodent for some months. We may never know the truth. My investigative instincts however tell me that the two had a long record of collusion. To be honest, I’m not sure the rat ate the paperwork at all. Deeply suspect.
Excuse validity 2/10
3. “My laptop broke, so did my washing machine”
A laptop breaking is a common and reasonable occurrence, albeit not that debilitating. But the mention of a simultaneous washing machine catastrophe throws the whole statement into question. Why did the washing machine break? Why is it relevant? Does the filing of tax returns explicitly require the provision of clean linen? There’s too much uncertainty around this one to conclusively rule it out. A solid contender.
Excuse validity 7/10
4. “My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my log in details to complete my return online”
At first glance this seems entirely plausible. Who doesn’t write down all of their passwords in the confidence that no burglar will make off with your post-it notes? That said, if your niece is wrecking your home office area and using your shared computer, you seriously need to establish some boundaries. Poor extended parenting, ultimately deserved fate.
Excuse validity 4/10
5. “A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed”
I’ve been in the car with a wasp. It’s pretty scary. More than a few people will have a story of pulling over and casually leaning on the car as if nothing’s the matter, while praying the venomous oik will make its exit.
You would think, however, that the notable part of a crash bad enough to destroy the papers is that it would probably also hurt you. The resulting, life altering injury may affect your ability to hold a pen, or indeed remember precisely what that form was that you lost and why it mattered.
Excuse validity 3/10
6. “My dog ate my tax return – and all of the reminders”
One dog related mishap is acceptable. We’ve all had the odd instance where a dog really did eat an important letter or bit of homework, and you have to hurriedly concoct a better excuse because, seriously? But for a dog to then eat multiple documents in succession speaks to several issues.
What other post is that person losing? You might miss out on a completely legitimate cheque for a million pounds, or a friendly court summons. Surely you’d move your dog somewhere else, or get a wall post box. Sure, people will keep trying to furiously jam post through the letterbox even when you nail it shut, then give up and leave it in the hedge. But honestly, who’s going to eat it there? Zero sympathy on this one.
Excuse validity 1/10
7. “The postman does not deliver to my house”
On the face of it, the absence of tax return forms or reminders would seem a solid excuse. It might not seem out of the question for a remote rural abode to be out of Royal Mail’s reach. You also can’t have a country house without a dog, with which the postman may have proved incompatible.
So far so likely. However, there’s one evident reason why this is clearly false: nobody could live without either Amazon deliveries or takeaways. Ready access to a good Chinese and novelty Prime purchase is close to being enshrined in the new British Bill of Rights.
Excuse validity 0/10
8. “My tax return was on my yacht, which caught fire”
This was the second yacht based conundrum on the longlist, which already makes it a strong contender for ‘really searching for an excuse not to complete a tax return’. But the case for the defence here is the last part of the statement.
The ability for a boat – surrounded by water, just as a reminder – to catch fire suggests a level of either stupendous bad luck or extraordinary daftness. For this person to then think the excuse would slide and not pick something else demands similarly prodigious qualities. A comfortable resident of the ‘so bizarre it’s probably true’ camp – and our clear winner.
Excuse validity 9/10
This post was written by Russell Lebe, Managing Director of Accountancy In Europe. AIE were set up specifically to assist individuals or companies who are looking for a trusted firm of accountants with experience across the continent.