Tax Advice

250 Days of Sausages: The most ridiculous tax return expense claims

30 Apr 2018

As small business accountants we work with a huge number of self employed individuals to ensure their self assessment tax return is filed in time for HMRC’s January 31st deadline.

The funny side to what is otherwise a very busy time for accountants is some of the ridiculous expense claims our team have dealt with over the years.

To discourage small business owners from making over-the-top tax expense claims that have little chance of being accepted, HMRC’s list of favourites reveal some crackers from the previous tax year.

So, we’ve compiled the most entertaining from both our team’s experience and HMRC’s, as well as adding in a few of the best excuses for late filing, too.

250 days of sausages

One of the more audacious expenses claims came from a hungry business owner, who tried to expense 250 days worth of sausage and chips, at £4.50 a pop.

Putting the questionable dietary decision to one side, claiming for food as a business expense on your tax return can be tricky.

The general rule of thumb is that any expense must be “wholly and exclusively” for business purposes. When it comes to claiming for food and drink, they should be claimed as a travel expense.

However, it must be clear that these are outside your normal working routine. So if you’re travelling to the same place of work every day – or indeed having sausage and chips almost everyday for lunch – you may well come unstuck.

sausages thumbnail1

Light entertainment

If experience shows us one thing it is that some self employed individuals have no shame in claiming expenses for things that many others would go to all lengths to hide from the public eye.

For example, a client from years gone by tried to claim a TV subscription for an adult channel whilst they were staying in a hotel, classing the expense as nothing more than travel and subsistence.

Knickers in a twist

Another report from clients gone by tell the tale of a building subcontractor whose expenses included a few items of lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, citing these purchases as protective clothing.

Nice try.

Questionable excuses and spurious claims

Completing a tax return isn’t always as straightforward as you’d think, but blaming aliens and the like might be a step too far.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services, said: “Each year we still come across some questionable excuses, whether that’s blaming a busy touring schedule or seeing aliens. However, each year we’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return.

“We also receive absurd expense claims from vet fees for a rabbit to room service at a hotel. It is unfair to make honest taxpayers pick up the bill for other people’s spurious claims, so HMRC will only accept sincere claims such as legitimate expenses for a job.”

Best self assessment expense from HMRC

  • A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts

  • Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub

  • Vet fees for a rabbit

  • Hotel room service - for candles and prosecco

  • Luxury watches as Christmas gifts for staff from a company with no employees

Finest excuses for missing the tax return deadline

  • I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house

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

  • My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go to retrieve it

  • My business doesn’t really do anything

  • I spilt coffee on it

Avoid ending up in articles like these by getting in touch with our tax accountants and letting their expertise guide your business through the UK’s tax system.

Keir Wright-Whyte


Managing Director

0207 043 4000

About the author

Originally graduating with a degree in geography from Edinburgh University, Keir claims that he was then tricked into becoming an accountant by one of the UK's top 5 accountancy practices.The deception extended to the usual training in audit and associated activities.

Keir subsequently worked in a number of advisory roles with clients including in the energy trading, pharmaceuticals and financial services sectors.

He loves working at Accounts & Legal because of the variety of work and clients, the excellent team ethos and morale, the importance placed on genuinely helping and being useful for clients and because he believes what he does matters to clients and helps the firm.

Keir's primary role is to ensure that new clients with complex businesses or needs are on-boarded in the best way and he is a "trouble shooter" both for clients and where complex issues arise internally. He also helps the accounting teams strive to improve what we do for clients, whether processes or services.

When not debiting or crediting, Keir has a penchant for fixing old buildings, skiing, surfing and cycling.


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