Around 10 million people are in the self assessment system, and while the vast majority of these submitted their annual tax return before the deadline, some were not as timely. In 2016, 870,000 taxpayers missed the 31 January deadline and consequently had to stump up £100 by way of a fine.
Earlier this month HMRC released some of the more imaginative excuses they have heard from taxpayers eager to avoid a fine. From wasp-related accidents to blaming an unsuspecting partner, the following defences were all lodged with HMRC:
1. My tax return was on my yacht, which caught fire.
2. A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed.
3. My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for ten days.
4. My dog ate my tax return...and all of the reminders.
5. I couldn't complete my tax return, because my husband left me and took our accountant with him. I am currently trying to find a new accountant.
6. My child scribbled all over the tax return, so I wasn't able to send it back.
7. I work for myself, but a colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it and lost it.
8. My husband told me the deadline was the 31 March.
9. My internet connection failed.
10. The postman doesn’t deliver to my house.
Needless to say none of the above excuses were accepted by HMRC as valid reasons for missing the deadline. However this is not to say that there will be no leniency shown if you have a legitimate reason which prevents you from submitting your tax return on time. HMRC has promised that, “There will always be help and support available for those who have a genuine excuse.” So what exactly qualifies as a ‘genuine excuse’? Although there is not an exhaustive list of occurrences which will be accepted, the following are likely to result in a sympathetic response from HMRC:
- Your partner died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline.
- You had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs.
- Your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return.
- A failure with HMRC online system.
- A fire or flood prevented you from completing your tax return.
If you feel you have been unfairly hit with a fine for filing your tax return late, and would like to appeal this decision, you should lodge your complaint as soon as possible. Appeals will be considered on their own merits and you should be prepared to show proof of your situation to back up your claim.
If you need help with compiling your future tax returns or further advice on your eligibility to dispute a late submission fine, Handpicked Accountants can connect you with a qualified and experienced accountant in your local area.