Register to get unlimited access to Citywire’s fund manager database. Registration is free and only takes a minute.

From Shih Tzus to the Caribbean: 10 strange tax return claims

With the self assessment deadline fast approaching, HMRC reveals some of the things people tried to get away with last year.

The cheek of it

A report from HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) shows people are pretty shameless when it comes to filing their tax returns.

With around 1.85 million people in London registered for self assessment and the deadline for returns a week away, HMRC has released the 10 strangest customer expense claims.

Glamorous holidays and luxury watches and even pet food for designer 'guard' dogs feature among the most outlandish claims customers tried to claim back from the tax office in 2014-15.

The cheek of it

A report from HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) shows people are pretty shameless when it comes to filing their tax returns.

With around 1.85 million people in London registered for self assessment and the deadline for returns a week away, HMRC has released the 10 strangest customer expense claims.

Glamorous holidays and luxury watches and even pet food for designer 'guard' dogs feature among the most outlandish claims customers tried to claim back from the tax office in 2014-15.

10. Caravan rental for the Easter weekend

Sometimes it pays to set your targets slightly lower.

Whereas one person on this list tried to claim a holiday in the Caribbean has an expense on their self-assessment form, this person was happy enough with a bank holiday weekend camping.

Sadly HMRC did not see it in quite the same way.

9. Betting slips

Everything’s worth a shot, right?

Betting was unlikely to be viewed as a fair expense by the tax man, but this individual thought they would see if they could claim it on their self-assessment form.

Unfortunately this gamble didn’t pay off, as HMRC said it was one of the worse self-assessment expense claims it received in 2014/15.

8. A garden shed for private use - plus the costs of the space it takes up in the garden

This claim was pushing it from the moment it said the shed was for private use.

However, it would probably garner more sympathy had the claimant not gone on to also claim the space it takes up in the garden.

How many people can say they are losing out if a shed takes space in a garden?

7. Underwear - for personal use

If there’s one thing to learn from this list its that the taxman will not subsidise underwear.

It may seem like an important expense at the time, but HMRC clearly thinks it’s a pants claim to make.

6. Cost of regular Friday night ‘bonding sessions’ - running into thousands of pounds

On the one hand this could be a completely valid expense claim.

Team building is, after all, an important part of running a business. It’s not too hard to imagine a Friday evening well spent building bonds and making a better business.

A more cynical interpretation would raise questions though. Why were these sessions run after work on Friday? Why were these sessions taking place regularly, rather than say a one off exercise? Do a few team games and snacks really cost thousands of pounds?

Unsurprisingly, HMRC took the latter view and listed it among its bad expense claims for 2014/15.

5. Armani jeans as protective clothing for a painter and decorator

No one wants to ruin their clothes with paint and other DIY detritus. For a painter or decorator this is an occupational hazard.

However, in this case HMRC was not happy with the person who listed jeans as a necessary expense.

Perhaps they would have more luck if they had gone for something a little less extravagant than luxury designer Armani.

4. Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’

Guard dogs could be an important expense for a home or business, so it’s understandable why someone would add food for one as an expense to their tax return.

Less understandable is that someone would claim a Shih Tzu (pictured) is the guardian of all they hold dear in the world.

As cute as the dog may have been, this expense did not was with HMRC in 2014/15.

3. International flights for dental treatment ahead of business meetings

Everyone hates visiting the dentist. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Taking a trip abroad means a visit to the dentist can be combined with a bit of sightseeing/sunbathing/adventure.

Just don’t try to claim it on a tax return is HMRC’s message.

2. Luxury watches as Christmas gifts for staff - from a company with no employees

As anyone who has ever glanced at the Financial Times weekend magazine will know, luxury watches are the ultimate sign of success.

In many ways this makes them the perfect Christmas gift for employees of a small business, a little thank you to show that the business is going well.

Unfortunately when HMRC looked closer at this claim it discovered that that the business in question did not in fact have any employees, making the claim somewhat redundant

1. Holiday flights to the Caribbean

Last year was one more stressful than most, with the Brexit vote, Trump’s election triumph and England’s defeat to Iceland in the European Championships all adding to the usual challenges faced by the self-employed and their ilk.

So it’s understandable that someone may have felt they deserved a break to be included as part of their business expenses for the year.

However, HMRC did not look kindly on the individual who claimed a holiday in the Caribbean on their tax return for 2015.

Comment & analysis

Twitter