My goldfish died – the best tax excuses

Author: Huw Jones
Published: 31st January 2014

fishDuring my time as a teacher I heard a few excuses – some of them fantastic – about why homework wasn’t handed in on time. My favourite was the boy who handed in a blank maths exercise book. When I asked him where his homework was, he said he couldn’t go home last night…his house had been besieged by TV crews, reporters and paparazzi. His dad, a well known MP, had announced his intention to stand for Tory party leadership. I think the detention was a welcome break from all the media attention.

It’s reassuring to know that HMRC are equally unforgiving when faced with fantastic excuses for the late filing of tax returns. An article published on the Government website shows the top ten excuses received by HMRC for the late filing of tax returns:

  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)

Read the full article at

These bizarre, exotic and flimsy excuses came to light when these people appealed the £100 penalty they received from HMRC for filing late. All of the appeals were unsuccessful.
So when it comes to filing your tax return it’s best to get it in on time – otherwise you’d better have a pretty good excuse!