Sorry I didn’t finish my tax return. I blame the goldfish

Bizarre excuses for late tax returns
Bizarre excuses for late tax returns
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A builder blamed the death of his pet goldfish as the reason he sent in a late tax return.

The mortified tradesman’s tale is one of dozens of “bizarre and flimsy” excuses for filing late tax returns compiled by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) ahead of this year’s January 31 deadline.

He joined a trader who blamed his wife for refusing to hand over his mail and a farmer who gave a run-in with a cow as a reason for filing late on the list of odd appeals against HMRC fines – all of which failed to avoid penalties.

Elsewhere a London accountant told the revenue body he had been too tied up submitting his clients’s tax returns to get his own in on time and a working taxi driver said his bad back meant he could not go upstairs to fetch his tax documents.

HMRC’s director general of personal tax, Ruth Owen, said: “There will always be unforeseen events that mean a taxpayer could not file their tax return on time. However, your pet goldfish passing away isn’t one of them.

“If you haven’t yet sent your 2012/13 tax return to HMRC, you need to do it online and pay the tax you owe by the end of January.”

Around 10.9m people are expected to fill out a Self Assessment return for the 2012/13 tax year.

With the January 31 tax return deadline for sending in those returns and paying any tax owed looming, those who still need to do this are being reminded that an initial £100 fixed penalty applies to late filers, even if there is no tax to pay or if the tax due is paid on time. This can be followed by additional fines.

To send an online return, people must be registered for HMRC online services. That involves getting an activation code by post, which will take a few days to arrive.

To register online visit or for help and advice visit or call 0300 200 3310.