The lighter side of HMRC: We want your money, but we also want to make you laugh

Junior staffers, cold fingers get blamed for missed payments in taxman's annual attempt at humour

It's well known that the UK's taxman would like a bit more dosh to fill its coffers – but it doesn't want to come across as a humourless leech.

Like many organisations on the hunt for cash, HMRC has been accused of going after the low-hanging fruit first. Take the reforms to IR35 that are being rolled out despite concerns from contractors and warnings that its check status tool isn’t fit for purpose.

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Efforts to make tech giants pay their fair share are undergoing consultation and won't be introduced until April 2020. Meanwhile, the public are left waving their fists at big firms and bigwigs that manage to avoid full payment wherever possible.

Of course, those members of the public have their own taxes to pay, and the self-assessment due date is fast approaching – and HMRC wants to make sure it's going to claw back every penny owed, ideally with as little admin as possible.

But the taxman doesn’t want to look like a soulless blood-sucker, so instead it has chosen to issue a "light-hearted" press release in order to drum up publicity for the impending deadline. Lovely stuff.

The release, an annual affair, tries to raise a smile at the imaginative reasons general punters have given for not paying up – of course what it really means is, "Don't even think about it, sonny."

This year, the top five "weakest excuses" include a person whose fingers were too cold to type thanks to a broken boiler and another who was cursed by their witch of a mother-in-law.

Another claimed a junior staffer had registered their client in Self Assessment "by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses" and someone else said they were too short to reach the post box. (If that last one is genuine, things are only going to get worse for this person, as MPs are pushing to ban low-level letterboxes.)

The taxman also offered up some dubious expenses claims people had tried to pass off as necessary for their work.

They included £40 on "extra woolly underwear, for 5 years" (possibly for the person who was too cold to type), a £900 55-inch TV and soundbar to help a carpenter "price his jobs" and £756 for dog insurance.

But we're sure our self-employed Reg readers are more inventive than the chumps that HMRC picked out: so what borderline things will you be claiming for this year? Tell us in the comments to ease your stress as the 31 January deadline approaches. ®

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