Do you have a ‘reasonable’ excuse for missing the self assessment tax return deadline?

22nd January 2020

The deadline is just a matter of days away now, so if you’ve not completed your self assessment, you must start thinking about it, without delay.

However, sometimes factors outside of your control mean you are unable to meet deadlines, including filing your self assessment tax return on 31 January.

Genuine reasons that may count as a ‘reasonable excuse’ for missing the deadline or late payment include:

  • your partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline
  • you had an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented you from dealing with your tax affairs
  • you had a serious or life-threatening illness
  • your computer or software failed just before or while you were preparing your online return
  • service issues with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) online services
  • a fire, flood or theft prevented you from completing your tax return
  • postal delays that you could not have predicted
  • delays related to a disability you have

However, despite the penalties in place for those who miss the deadline without a genuine excuse, people still try their luck. In 2019, the following excuses were submitted to HMRC as reasons for missing the 31 January deadline.

  • my mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me
  • I’m too short to reach the post box
  • I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me, and my third maid was very slow to learn
  • our junior member of staff registered our client in Self Assessment by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses
  • my boiler had broken and my fingers were too cold to type

Unsurprisingly, these people were not granted an extension and were penalised accordingly.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services, said:

“We want to make it as simple as possible for our customers to do their tax returns and the majority make the effort to do theirs right and on time. Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. If you think you might miss the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the more we can help.”

If you’re having trouble submitting your tax return online, or need assistance, contact us immediately on 01926 422292 or email

 Self Assessment Excuses