With the tax return deadline fast approaching, some taxpayers will face a genuine struggle to file their self-assessment on time. Others, however, encounter more dubious delays, as HMRC's list of strangest excuses for late submissions reveals.
Tax returns are due on 31 January and submitting even one day late could land you a £100 fine. One would-be taxpayer pleaded for an exemption on the basis they had been placed under a witch's curse - cast by their mother-in-law.
Tragic as the tale may be, HMRC didn't buy it. This attempt at avoiding a fine was included in a list of 'unbelievable excuses', along with the most 'dubious' expenses claims, released by HMRC ahead of the upcoming deadline.
Read on to see more of last year's least convincing excuses for filing late, and find out what to do if you genuinely can't meet the tax return deadline.
While you're racing to finish your self-assessment forms on time, spare a thought for the unfortunate taxpayers who had to contend with frozen fingers and magical family members.
Last year, HMRC received these creative excuses for missing the deadline:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, HMRC didn't accept any of these excuses.
If you don't submit your 2017-18 self-assessment form online by midnight on 31 January this year, you'll be issued an automatic £100 fine.
After the initial fine, your penalty will increase every day until you file your return:
If you were hoping to file a paper tax return, the 31 October deadline has already passed. However, you can still opt to file online until the end of January.
Though you may not be suffering from a witch's curse, you might have a genuine reason for missing the deadline. You can appeal against HMRC's fines, but you'll need to provide a 'reasonable excuse'.
HMRC has said it will consider cancelling your penalty if any of the following interfered with your filing process:
HMRC also sets out common excuses that won't be accepted, including relying on someone else, or finding the HMRC system to difficult to use.
If you do find yourself in circumstances that prevent you from meeting the deadline, let HMRC know as soon as possible, preferably before the deadline has passed.
If you're self-employed, you may be able to claim certain business expenses to lower your tax bill.
But HMRC also received a number of dubious expenses claims last year, including:
Once again, HMRC rejected all these claims.
When you file a self-assessment return, the tax you owe is calculated based on your annual profits. Since earning money often requires spending money, HMRC allows you to deduct business expenses from your taxable profits in order to lower your final bill.
Figuring out what you can and can't claim can be complicated, and it differs depending on your source of income:
In general, the costs of business trips fall under expenses.
If you use business premises, you can claim the costs of heating, lighting and general maintenance. When working from home, you can claim a proportion of these costs.
If you have employees, their salaries can be deducted from your profits.
As a landlord, you can claim back your rental property's running costs, including buildings insurance, utility bills and cleaning fees for communal areas.
For the 2017-18 tax year, you can deduct 75% of your mortgage interest from your profits, though this will reduce over coming years and eventually be phased out. It's beingon your mortgage interest instead.