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Witchcraft no excuse, says HMRC

Witchcraft and cold fingers are amongst some of the most bizarre excuses HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has received for missing the tax Self Assessment deadline.  Some of the strangest excuses include:


  1. My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.
  2. I’m too short to reach the post box.
  3. I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me, and my third maid was very slow to learn.
  4. Our junior member of staff registered our client in Self-Assessment by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses.
  5. My boiler had broken and my fingers were too cold to type.

Meanwhile, dubious expenses claims included £40 on woolly underwear, £756 pet insurance for a family dog and a family holiday to Nigeria.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services, said: “Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time but it’s unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims.

“If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the more we can help.”

Penalties for late returns

HMRC says it will treat those with genuine excuses leniently, as it focuses penalties on those who ‘persistently fail to complete their tax returns and deliberate tax evaders’. The excuse must be genuine and evidence might be called for. Customers who provide HMRC with a reasonable excuse before the 31 January deadline can avoid a penalty after this date.

The penalties for late tax returns are:

  • An initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there is no tax to pay, or if the tax due is paid on time.
  • After 3 months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900.
  • After 6 months, a further penalty of 5% of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater.
  • After 12 months, another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater.

There are also additional penalties for paying late.

Tax is automatically deducted from the majority of UK taxpayers’ wages, pensions or savings. For people or businesses where tax is not automatically deducted, or when they may have earned additional untaxed income, they are required to complete a Self Assessment tax return each year.



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