10 disastrous excuses for not submitting your VAT Return on time


Worst VAT Excuses


Submitting your VAT return late can leave you out of pocket and providing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with an excuse just won’t cut it nowadays, however people still try.

We have scoured the web and compiled a list of the worst excuses for submitting a late VAT return.

1. My pet dog ate my tax return… and all the reminders…

You have probably come across this already and seems to be the oldest one in the book! Although your dog could potentially eat one reminder, it is highly unlikely it could eat ALL of them AND your tax return. Unless you smothered it with delicious food. Either way this excuse just won’t cut it.

2. I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency

This 007 inspired excuse sounds very intriguing, unfortunately there are billions of letter boxes and free Wi-Fi cafés around the world, all of which could have been used during an ‘escape’. We’re convinced that even Bond wouldn’t use this excuse.

3. I had a run-in with a cow

Unless the cow spanned the height and width of the country, then we are sure you could have made it to a computer. On the off chance that this person had an altercation with a cow then we have some great advice… next time just move away from it calmly and collectively (or don’t leave your VAT return till the last minute).  

4. I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs

Looking after numerous animals may get you caring points, however these are not redeemable against your VAT Return. Even if this claimant had been busy looking after all sorts of animals, we doubt he was so busy he couldn’t find half an hour to fill in his return.

5. I fell in with the wrong crowd

This sounds more like a teenager’s excuse for failing a test than a reason to not fill in your tax return. Whether you ‘fall in with the wrong crowd’ or not you’re ultimately in charge of your tax affairs and we aren’t even sure a teacher would accept this as a valid excuse for turning up late!

6. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play

I’m sure touring the country with a one-man play is a time consuming business, however somehow we don’t think the show would be so ridiculously popular there’s no time to submit your return. If your show was this successful you’d have to account for VAT on sold tickets anyway, so this excuse didn’t exactly play out as intended!

7. I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal

Even if this person was telling the truth, you have more than a single day to submit your tax return. For this to be correct we’re looking at a spontaneous mountain trip of two weeks or more! Basically, even if mountain hikes are your sort of thing, you can’t use your love of the outdoors as an excuse for not submitting your return.  

8. I’ve been cruising around the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land

This excuse is ridiculous for several reasons. Firstly, if you’re on a luxury yacht, we’re going to presume you have internet access allowing you to submit your return online. Secondly, if you miss your VAT deadline warning letter, it isn’t a valid excuse not to get the return in on time, even if you are travelling the world.

9. Barack Obama is in charge of my finances

Barack Obama is one of the most influential presidents of all time but saying he is ‘in charge of my finances’ is just not true. This excuse does get an A* for wit though.

10. After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else

We understand that news stories can sometimes be thought provoking, however you can’t use your empathy as an excuse not to submit on time. Again, you have more than one day to submit your return, simply saying your mind is somewhere else doesn’t cut it.

The funniest part about these excuses is that these are real appeals that have been submitted in a bid to overturn their late fines. Unfortunately for the appealer none of them were granted and they ended up having to pay up.

What is a Reasonable Excuse?

It is possible to appeal against your VAT Return Late Surcharge if you have a reasonable excuse. The deadline for appeal is 30 days within the date of the penalty notice. HMRC list some reasonable excuses which include:

  • Illness: where the person normally responsible for completing the VAT Return is unable to do so because of illness.
  • Loss of records: where your records are stolen or destroyed.
  • Computer Breakdown: where your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return

The full list of reasonable excuses can be found here. It’s also vital you try and send your return or payment as soon as the reasonable excuse is resolved.

It’s also important to take into account that if you rely on someone else, such as your accountant, to submit your return and pay the VAT due and they fail to do so on time, this is NOT a reasonable excuse as HMRC account you as ultimately responsible.

It’s always the best practice to try and get your VAT Return completed and submitted as soon as possible to avoid any repercussions, whether you do this yourself, rely on an accountant or use accounting software such as Clarity365.


Worst excuses for late tax returns revealed by Revenue and Customs (The Telegraph)

VAT Notice 700/50: Default Surcharge (HRMC)


Lauren author bio

Written by Lauren Witley

Hi I’m Lauren and I am the Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Data Clarity. I enjoy researching and writing about the latest marketing, social media and sales trends and creating infographics. In my spare time I like baking & photography! Find me on LinkedIn.

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