The Best of the Worst Excuses For Not Filing Your Tax Return on Time

According to, the United States Internal Revenue Service expects to receive more than 152 million individual tax returns in 2018. As of March 23, they had received just over 86 million. That means me and 66 million of my friends will probably start to do our taxes this weekend. Or, maybe Monday since the deadline is on Tuesday. Among those 152 million, there will be more than a few filing a late tax return. The excuses the IRS gets from people trying to avoid late fees and penalties are hilariously lame.

And, lest you think some of these are stupid because nobody files paper returns anymore, approximately seven percent of returns are still filed on paper. So there’s a few million people whose dogs can still eat their homework … er, returns.

Here are the nine top worst excuses for not filing a tax return on time:

  1. “I suffer from late filing syndrome”

A U.S. governor’s aide who failed to pay income taxes or file returns for five years pleaded in court that he suffered from “late filing syndrome,” a medical condition caused by depression which only affected his ability to fill in tax returns. Unfortunately the American Psychiatric Association didn’t agree with him. How depressing.

  1. “I was having a senior moment” 

So you’re not quite on the right side of 60 and you habitually leave your glasses/pens/calculators on buses—why not use your deteriorating memory faculties to your advantage? Apparently a few taxpayers have tried this one, but the difficulty has been proving it. That, and the fact that many of them forgot to show up to their hearings to argue their case.

  1. “I was in a coma”

This one might actually work if true, but unfortunately it’s slightly less effective if there’s Instagram® footage of you throwing the latest moves down at your local club at the time you were supposedly in said coma. (This applies regardless of how bad your dancing might be).

  1. “I was busy stocking up on blunt instruments ahead of the impending zombie apocalypse”tax return, not filing tax return, zombie apocalypse

Ok, as far as I’m aware, no one’s actually used this one yet since my daughter makes sure my “Walking Dead”-obsessed son-in-law’s taxes are always filed on time. But it might not be as farfetched as you think.

Scientists recently conducted research into what would happen if a zombie plague broke out and found that, unless dealt with quickly and aggressively, it may result in the collapse of civilization. Given the overwhelming scientific evidence, I think you ought to be forgiven for taking precautions.

  1. “I’m not liable to pay taxes because I’m an alien”

I presume they meant a caravan-loving illegal immigrant in this case, although you could try pleading your case as an extra-terrestrial. Alternatively, if you really are from space, why not just use your mind-bending powers to make them think you paid?

  1. “I’m Batman, I don’t pay taxes”tax return, not filing tax return, batman

This only works if you’re Michael Keaton or Christian Bale and I’ll cut you slack if you’re Val Kilmer. But Affleck cheated on my sweetheart, Jennifer Garner, (aka the future ex-Mrs. Dan Rose, god willing) and there’s no forgiving Clooney for almost single-handedly sinking the franchise with the most controversial nipples since Janet Jackson. The excuse WILL work forever, however, for the late Adam West, the greatest Batman ever.

  1. “I haven’t had time because a baby crow flew into my house and I have to stay in to feed it”

It might sound weird, but this was an actual excuse used by someone who didn’t pay on time. The more creative among you might like to substitute the crow for any number of other winged creatures—a baby bald eagle, perhaps?

  1. “I was kidnapped by pirates”

There was no word if this excuse came from a sea captain on an ocean freighter and the pirates were from Somalia (think Tom Hanks, people). However, though it’s a little controversial, it’s workable. Whatever you do, don’t mention Captain Jack Sparrow or Barbossa to the IRS unless you’re Keira Knightley.

  1. “My dog ate it”taxes, tax return

Ta-dahhhhhh … far and away the #1 excuse the IRS still gets and, for paper returns, this might seem like a tried and tested failsafe. However, it’s a slightly trickier one to implement in the digital age. Can dogs eat computers? I’m not sure. If you can think of an updated version, you may get away with it. Otherwise this old chestnut earns zero points for creativity. Get to the back of the class.

And a few more excuses (without commentary), but still unbelievably real:

  • My tax return was on my yacht, which caught fire
  • A wasp in my car caused me to have an accident and my tax return, which was inside, was destroyed (To be fair, I used to live in the countryside and had wasps fly in my car constantly and the big ones would FREAK … ME … OUT!)
  • My wife helps me with my tax return, but she had a headache for ten days
  • I couldn’t complete my tax return, because my husband left me and took our accountant with him. I am currently trying to find a new accountant.
  • My child scribbled all over the tax return, so I wasn’t able to send it back
  • I work for myself, but a colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it and lost it
  • My internet connection failed
  • The postman doesn’t deliver to my house and I never received a reminder in the mail

And don’t think the lame excuses only come from this side of the pond. Here are some from our British friends that are just as mind-blowing.  The British equivalent of our IRS is the HMRC, which charmingly and English-y stands for “Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs.”

  • My pet goldfish died (self-employed builder)
  • I had a run-in with a cow (Midlands farmer)
  • After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else (London woman)
  • My wife won’t give me my mail (self-employed trader)
  • My husband told me the deadline was 31 March, and I believed him (Leicester hairdresser) Note: British taxes are due on January 31 every year.
  • I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play (Coventry writer)
  • My bad back means I can’t go upstairs. That’s where my tax return is (a working taxi driver)
  • I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land (South East man)
  • Our business doesn’t really do anything (Kent financial services firm)
  • I’ve been too busy submitting my clients’ tax returns (London accountant).



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