Will your excuse for a late tax return work – or raise a laugh?

The deadline is looming

The deadline for filing your 2012/13 self-assessment tax return is 31 January 2014; if you file it late HMRC will issue an automatic £100 penalty. But, if you have a reasonable excuse HMRC may waive the penalty.

As might be expected HMRC hasn’t issued a list of acceptable excuses but has released its top ten least-acceptable excuses (I personally think the tenth is the funniest!).

  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)

On a more serious note

The tax year ended on 5 April 2013 so there is a window of almost 10 months in which to prepare and file a tax return. Human nature being what it is, there are many people who view a deadline as a target to aim for and are quite happy to file at the last minute. The cautious amongst you can see that leaving things to the last minute could be risky – what if your PC breaks down? What if your internet connection fails? What if you cannot find your P60?

Here’s some advice

Not helpful if you’re currently in a self-assessment flat spin but I always advise clients to have their accounts and tax returns prepared early in the tax-year “cycle” – usually between May and September. My theory is that if a client is aware of his or her tax liability early in the tax year, the client has more time to save towards their tax bill – compare this with being told on 30th January that you have a tax bill of say £10,000 …. and you haven’t got the funds saved! This is no exaggeration, I have seen clients (a long time ago) who would leave everything to the last minute in January and then find they haven’t got the money to settle their tax bill because they’ve spent all their money on a new car or holiday.

If you are due a tax refund, you’ll receive it sooner if the return is filed earlier!

Need help?

If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, then you need to start preparing now or ensure that your accountant has all the necessary information to hand.  If you need any help please do contact me – the sooner the better.

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