January 15 2016.

From broken kitchen appliances, hungry pets and arguments that last five years – some people will stop at nothing to pass the blame for their tardy timekeeping.

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 excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late returns.

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.

Ruth Owen, HMRC Director General of Personal Tax, said: “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.”

The deadline for sending 2014-15 tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2016.

If you are submitting your 2014-15 Self Assessment return online for the first time, you will need to register for SA Online. Registering for online filing is simple – you can do it at

Help is available from the GOV.UK website at or from the Self Assessment
helpline on 0300 200 3310.

The penalties for late tax returns ar
• 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; and
• after 12 months, another 5% or £300 charge, whichever is greater.