Tax office warns that late payment excuses won’t wash

With the deadline for tax payments just a week away, the Director General of Personal Tax at HMRC has warned that excuses for late payment won’t wash – and she’s heard them all.

Ruth Owen says: “Untidy family members and hungry pets are very unlikely to be accepted as a legitimate excuse for completing your tax return late.

“We understand that life can be unpredictable and for those customers who have a genuine excuse for missing the 31 January deadline, such as the flooding, help is at hand. My advice would be to contact us through our helplines or online, as soon as possible. But for those who are trying to play the system, while the rest of us do the right thing, the message is clear: submit your tax return online by 31 January or face a fine. We’re here to help people in genuine distress, but not to act as a free lender to people who can’t meet their responsibilities to pay their tax.”

She added: “While HMRC will not accept spurious excuses when the vast majority hit the deadline and pay up what they owe, we recognise that a number of taxpayers may have difficulties completing their tax return on time. For instance, those affected by flooding at their premises, or their agents’ premises, will not be asked to pay a penalty if their return is submitted without unreasonable delay. The department has also opened a Tax Helpline to give practical help and advice to people affected by severe weather and flooding – 0800 904 7900.

The best (or worst) excuses
This list shows excuses used in unsuccessful appeals to HMRC for missing the January tax deadline.

  1. My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them
  2. I’m not a paperwork-orientated person – I always relied on my sister to complete my returns but we have now fallen out
  3. My accountant has been ill
  4. My dog ate my tax return
  5. I will be abroad on deadline day with no internet access so will be unable to file
  6. My laptop broke, so did my washing machine
  7. My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my log-in details to complete my return online
  8. My husband ran over my laptop
  9. I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for 5 years
  10. I had a cold which took a long time to go

The deadline for sending 2014-15 tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January.

• Meanwhile, there’s a warning to beware of fake e-mails claiming to be from HMRC. According to a survey by digital authentication vendor, MIRACL, up to 40% of people due to complete online tax returns have been targeted by ‘phishing’ e-mails pretending to be from the tax office.

Jonathan Lloyd White, HMRC’s Director of Security and Information, said: “When using our online services I would urge all our customers to be vigilant, and remember that HMRC will never send an e-mail to ask for your personal information or password, or include a link or attachment. We want to help you stay safe online. Visit cyberstreetwise.com for more advice.”