The 31st January is a significant date for every freelancer, contractor and self-employed worker in the UK for two reasons. One, because it is finally the end of arguably the most difficult month of the year. And two, because it marks the deadline for submitting your self-assessment tax return.
Regardless of whether you work as a sole trader or through your own limited company, you are expected to file a record of your earnings to HMRC.
Obviously, the majority of independent workers would rather spend time focusing on running their business. After all, organising invoices, collecting together a year’s worth of business expense receipts before paying the taxman is a hassle many of us could do without.
So inevitably, a number of the 10.39m self-assessment returns received by The Treasury last January were late. In fact, every year HMRC receives a number of imaginative excuses from self-employed workers as to why they couldn’t possibly have made the midnight deadline on the 31st January.
Here are a few of HMRC’s favourites, which needless to say were not accepted as reasonable excuses:
“I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house.”
“I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play.”
“My business doesn’t really do anything.”
“I spilt coffee on it.”
“My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it.”
Despite their audacity, these excuses landed their owners a £100 fine from HMRC – which lists its reasonable excuses for missing the deadline here.
In addition to making sure you submit your self-assessment on time, it’s important you only claim allowable business expenses, which in no shape of form include the following:
“A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts.”
“Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub.”
“Vet fees for a rabbit.”
“£4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days.”
“Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco.”
Again, no surprises that these expenses were also rejected by HMRC, which does provide a summary of allowable business expenses, here.
For anyone having trouble with their self-assessment, Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Director General of Customer Services, said:
“We’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return, but each year we still come across some questionable excuses, whether that’s blaming a busy touring schedule or seeing aliens. However, help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time.”
If you’re worried you might miss the 31st January deadline, you can sign up for an account on the Government website here for any help and advice.