The 10 most ridiculous excuses for not submitting your tax return on time

We hope you made the 31 January 2016 Self Assessment tax return deadline. While the best option is always to submit your tax return on time, if you do have an excuse, we recommend that you avoid using one from the list below.


According to HMRC, none of these excuses have led to a successful appeal:

  1. “I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.”
  2. “I had a run-in with a cow.”
  3. “Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.”
  4. “A work colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it and didn’t give it back.”
  5. “I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.”
  6. “My tax papers were left in the shed and a rat ate them.”
  7. “I’m not a paperwork orientated person – I always relied on my sister to complete my returns but we have fallen out.”
  8. “My accountant has been ill.”
  9. “My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my login details to complete my return online.”
  10. “I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for five years.”

What is a reasonable excuse?

You can appeal against a VAT Return Late Surcharge if you have, what HMRC considers to be, a “reasonable excuse”. You have 30 days after receiving your penalty notice to make this appeal. HMRC has listed a few excuses that are likely to be considered:

  • When the person normally responsible for completing the return is unable to do so because of illness
  • When your records are stolen or destroyed
  • When your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return

The full list of reasonable excuses can be found here. It’s worth noting that if you rely on a third party – like an accountant – to submit your return and pay the VAT due, their failure to do so does not count as a reasonable excuse.

It’s always the best practice to get your VAT Return completed and submitted as soon as possible and to not wait until the deadline.

1st Contact Accounting can ensure your returns are submitted quickly, easily and on time. Email us or visit our website and let us find the perfect service to fit your needs.