HMRC have released a list of the 10 worst excuses for missing the 31 January tax return deadline, however there are a number of cases where HMRC’s limited definition for what constitutes a reasonable excuse has been exposed.
The list of excuses published by HMRC is as follows:
- My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.
- I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.
- I fell in with the wrong crowd.
- I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.
- Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
- I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
- A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.
- I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.
- My girlfriend’s pregnant.
- I was in Australia.
Whilst these excuses are clearly unreasonable, recent cases have shown that HMRC continue to pursue their internal line that only ‘death, disease or disaster’ would constitute a reasonable excuse. However, the legislation itself simply states that the excuse must be reasonable. Recent cases have included excuses such as inability to pay (T James V HMRC), HMRC communication failure (M Styles v HMRC), HMRC system failures (Eclipse Generic Ltd v HMRC) and in the case of Spink v HMRC (2014), it was found that it was reasonable for a taxpayer to assume that tax was not payable until the actual tax status had been established.
Each case should be determined on its own facts and we believe HMRC are continuing to refuse reasonable excuse claims in circumstances that are “reasonable” under case law.