Ahead of the 31 October filing deadline, Colin Senez lists the choice (non-)excuses you'll want to avoid (hungry dogs included)
It's getting to that time of year again when you take a look back, get all your money together and work out how much you have to give to keep people happy.
No, I'm not talking about Christmas – I'm talking about your tax return. Some may say that it is far too early to even start contemplating the chore that is its submission, but given the penchant for shops to assemble their Christmas displays in August, then it would only seem appropriate to replicate the same eagerness in one's fiscal preparation.
The key dates to pencil into your diaries (for which read: engrave with an indelible marker pen) are 31 October 2015 if you want to submit a paper tax return and ask HMRC to calculate the tax on your behalf, or 31 January 2016 as the last day to file your income tax return online and submit your first payment on account. Any delay on these and you are lumped with a ’100 fine for your troubles.
But how steadfast are HMRC in their capacity to dish out fines to those who have arrived late, panting and out of breath outside HMRC's door? Well, it seems pretty steadfast in reality. There are some excuses that may work with HMRC for failing to meet the deadline. Examples of these are:
– Loss through fire, flood or theft. Holding your documents close to the stove while cooking probably doesn't count.
– Very severe illness, such as a coma, a heart attack or other life-threatening condition. The sheer mundanity of completing another tax return does not qualify as a life threatening condition.
This has not stopped the great British public from having a go. HMRC annually release their top ten favourite excuses for late filings:
1. My pet dog ate my tax return… and all the reminders.
2. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn't find a post box or get an internet signal.
3. I fell in with the wrong crowd.
4. I've been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency. (It doesn't matter, Mr Bourne, you still have a responsibility to pay your taxes on time.)
5. Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
6. I've been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
7. A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn't give it back.
8. I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park. (There are instances where a campervan can qualify for principal residence relief – so cheer up, it's not all bad news.)
9. My girlfriend is pregnant.
10. I was in Australia. (After this particular Rugby World Cup, I would be inclined to think that HMRC would have a particularly dim view of this excuse.)
Perhaps it is time to start thinking about putting Rex in the garden, cancelling that last minute trip to the Welsh mountains and settling your differences with that foreign intelligence agency so you can make the necessary arrangements to get your tax return in on time.
You can then have a nice cup of tea and read the next top ten excuses while Rex tears into your gas and electricity bills. Good boy, Rex.
Colin Senez is an associate at boutique private wealth law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP