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'My hamster ate my post': HMRC reveals most bizarre tax return excuses as deadline looms

HM Revenue & Customs has released a list of the most "weird and wonderful" excuses it's received from taxpayers who have failed to get their self-assessment tax return in on time – with bizarre explanations including "my hamster ate my post" and "I was up a mountain in Wales". 

If you need to file a self-assessment tax return, the deadline is 11.59pm on Friday 31 January – so act NOW to avoid a £100 fine.

HMRC's released the list of odd excuses it's received over the past decade for taxpayers missing the deadline – as well as questionable expenses claims – in its annual bid to remind people to submit their return on time. It said the most bizarre excuse it's received was from someone who claimed their mother-in-law was a witch and had put a curse on them – an excuse HMRC publicised last year as well.

Unsurprisingly, HMRC says all the late excuses and expenses claims on the list were unsuccessful.

For full info on who needs to submit their tax return by 31 January and how to do it if you do, see our Self-assessment tax returns guide.

What were the 10 most bizarre excuses and claims?

HMRC says the 10 most bizarre excuses for late tax returns and questionable expenses claims it's had over the past decade, in reverse order, are:

10. Caravan rental for the Easter weekend.

9. I was up a mountain in Wales, and could not find a postbox or get an internet signal.

8. My dog ate the post (again).

7. Claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days.

6. My hamster ate my post.

5. I've been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I'm on dry land.

4. A music subscription so I can listen to music while I work.

3. Pet food for a shih tzu "guard dog".

2. A DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the decks... in a bowls club.

1. My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.

Who needs to file a self-assessment tax return?

Most UK taxpayers have their taxes deducted automatically from their wages, pensions or savings, and so don't need to file a tax return.

But about 11 million tax returns are due this year, from individuals or businesses who haven't had tax automatically deducted, or have earned extra untaxed income.

You'll need to submit a tax return if any of the following applied to you in the last tax year (6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019):

  • You're self-employed and your income was more than £1,000.
  • Your income was more than £50,000, and you or your partner claimed child benefit.
  • You earned more than £2,500 from renting out property, or from other untaxed income such as tips or commission.
  • You earned more than £100,000 in taxable income.
  • You earned £10,000 or more before tax from savings, investments, shares or dividends.
  • You earned income from abroad, or lived abroad and had a UK income.
  • You need to pay capital gains tax.
  • You received income from a trust.
  • Your state pension was more than your personal allowance and was your only source of income (unless you started getting your pension on or after 6 April 2016).
  • HMRC has told you that you didn't pay enough tax last year (and you haven't already paid up through your tax code or voluntary payments).
  • You filed a self-assessment tax return last year (even if you didn't owe any tax). You'll need to do this unless HMRC has already written to you to say you don't need to file one.

If you're still unsure, you can use the Government's free tool to check whether you need to file a tax return.

What does HMRC say?

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."

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