Finance: Goldfish death blamed for late tax return

Goldfish have been stolen from a pond in Lowestoft.

Goldfish have been stolen from a pond in Lowestoft. - Credit: Archant

The taxman has compiled a list of the most “bizarre and flimsy” excuses for sending in a late tax return, including a builder who was mourning the death of his pet goldfish and a trader who claimed his wife refused to hand over his mail.

Also among the oddest excuses seen by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for a late tax return was a woman who claimed she could not concentrate after seeing a story about a volcanic eruption on the news and a writer from Coventry who claimed he had been far too busy showing his one-man play.

Meanwhile, a London accountant told the revenue body that he had been too tied up submitting his clients’ tax returns to get his own in on time and a man from the South East said he had been cruising round the world on his yacht and only picked up post when on dry land.

A farmer gave a run-in with a cow as a reason for filing late, while a working taxi driver said his bad back meant he could not go upstairs to fetch his tax documents.

Around 10.9million people are expected to fill out a Self Assessment return for the 2012/13 tax year.

With the January 31 tax return deadline for sending in those returns and paying any tax owed looming, those who still need to do this are being reminded that an initial £100 fixed penalty applies to those who do not get their returns in on time, even if there is no tax to pay or if the tax due is paid on time. This can be followed by additional fines.

All of the tardy taxpayers on the “top oddest excuses” list received a £100 penalty for filing late. They used the listed reasons during appeals against HMRC’s decisions, but they were unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile, the revenue body also revealed that as many people were seeing in 2014, 137 people filed their tax returns between 11pm and midnight on New Year’s Eve.

A total of 26,905 returns were filed on New Year’s Eve, while 12,938 were submitted on New Year’s Day. The busiest hour on New Year’s Day was between 3pm-4pm, when 1,427 returns were filed.

HMRC previously said that more than 1,500 people found time on Christmas Day to submit their online tax returns.

HMRC’s director general of personal tax, Ruth Owen, said: “There will always be unforeseen events that mean a taxpayer could not file their tax return on time. However, your pet goldfish passing away isn’t one of them.

“If you haven’t yet sent your 2012/13 tax return to HMRC, you need to do it online and pay the tax you owe by the end of January.”

To send an online tax return, people must be registered for HMRC online services. That involves getting an activation code by post, which will take a few days to arrive.

People can register for HMRC online services at General help and advice on completing a return is available at or by calling the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310.

: : Here are HMRC’s top 10 oddest excuses for sending in a late tax return:

1. My pet goldfish died (self-employed builder)

2. I had a run-in with a cow (Midlands farmer)

3. After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else (London woman)

4. My wife won’t give me my mail (self-employed trader)

5. My husband told me the deadline was 31 March and I believed him (Leicester hairdresser)

6. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play (Coventry writer)

7. My bad back means I can’t go upstairs. That’s where my tax return is (a working taxi driver)

8. I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land (South East man)

9. Our business doesn’t really do anything (Kent financial services firm)

10. I’ve been too busy submitting my clients’ tax returns (London accountant)