Tax returns, floods and a stray washing machine

Posted by James Greig on
Imogen, Henry and Gertrude, three English storms have wrought havoc in the days since 28 January.  At the same time, in the 'real' stormy world of tax, Channel Four highlighted the world of tax avoidance again on Monday night, hard on the heels of a week of Google tax-bashing.

31 January marked the deadline in the UK for submission of tax returns.  The 10,390,000 tax payers who managed to file a return on time are breathing a sigh of relief.  A few have genuine difficulties and are filing late.  There are others who have little excuse but it does not stop them trying to wriggle out of the £100 penalty.

Amusingly, HMRC recently published its 10 worst excuses for late submission of tax returns, which   were all genuinely used in unsuccessful appeals.

My favourites are:

  • "My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them"
  • "I’m not a paperwork orientated person"
  • "My laptop broke, so did my washing machine"
  • "I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for 5 years"

Conclusion: if you are tempted to use any of these, think again. They didn't work.  (And if you are wondering about the relevance of the washing machine, so am I!)

That does not mean HMRC is not sympathetic to some genuine difficulties, including weather-related reasons, as stated recently:

"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."

However, this is no license for laxity.  For example, there is a penalty of 5% of the tax paid late if it was due by 31 January and is still not paid by the end of February.

The lesson, as always, is not to leave things to the last minute and to get help if it all becomes too much.  Tax deadlines, unlike storms, do not blow over.

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James is the head of our Wills, probate, tax and trusts team based in the Thames Valley.

James Greig
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