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'My hamster ate my post!' – HMRC's 10 most ridiculous tax return excuses and expense claims

3-minute read

Sam Bromley

22 January 2020

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HMRC has released its round up of the most ridiculous tax return excuses and failed expense claims from the last decade.

From old favourites to surprisingly creative defences, here are HMRC’s top 10 – including the person who tried to claim for more than £1000 worth of sausage and chips.

Completing your Self Assessment and paying your bill by the tax return deadline can be challenging. But with penalties for filing late, it’s important to follow the rules. With that in mind, we’re not surprised that HMRC objected to these outlandish defences.

My mother-in-law put a curse on me

Who ya gonna call? HMRC’s top tax return excuse is decidedly supernatural.

One taxpayer said the reason they weren’t able to file their tax return on time is because they were cursed by their mother-in-law, who’s a witch.

But according to Thought Catalog “...most people who have been cursed don’t even know it” – which could be the reason HMRC was able to see through this excuse.

While HMRC says it’ll be lenient to those who genuinely can’t file on time, the excuse must be real and the taxpayer might be asked for evidence.

HMRC’s top failed expenses claim

When you picture a guard dog, which breed comes to mind? German Shepherd? Rottweiler? How about a Shih Tzu? One taxpayer tried to claim pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’ as a tax-deductible expense.

FreeAgent says that HMRC has “been known to claim that guard dogs, especially those who guard a business run from home, are actually pet animals”. If HMRC doesn’t always allow expenses for traditional guard dogs, it’s unlikely this claim was ever going to get through.

Generally, all expenses need to be “wholly and exclusively” for business purposes. While it’s possible to claim care costs for working animals, there isn’t much guidance from HMRC on the tax treatment of different animals.

Read more about what you can claim as self-employed tax deductible expenses.

The top 10 worst tax return excuses and failed expense claims

Without further ado, here are the decade’s most ridiculous expenses claims and late tax return excuses (in reverse order):

  • caravan rental for the Easter weekend
  • I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal
  • my dog ate the post… again
  • claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days
  • my hamster ate my post
  • I’ve been cruising around the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land
  • a music subscription so I can listen to music while I work
  • pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’
  • a DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the decks… in a bowls club
  • my mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me

There are penalties for filing late – but help is available

If you file late there’s an initial £100 fixed penalty, which applies even if there’s no tax to pay or if the tax due is paid on time. This can increase the later you leave it – read more about late penalties and reasonable excuses.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC director general of customer services, said: “We always offer help to those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. It is 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.”

Our top 10 favourite excuses

We’ve made a short video that runs down our own top 10 favourite excuses for late tax returns over the years. From yacht fires to arguing siblings, which one's your favourite?

Stuck with your return? Check out our tax and Self Assessment resource

While the excuses here didn’t fly with HMRC, we know that Self Assessment can be tricky. That’s why we’ve created a tax and Self Assessment resource to help see you through the process, with top tips, articles, and guides.

What's the Self Assessment process like for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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