back to article Who says HMRC hasn't got a sense of humour? Er, 65 million Brits

Brits’ favourite government department, Her Majesty’s Revenues & Customs, has released a listicle of the most bizarre excuses people have given for missing the Self Assessment tax returns deadline, along with the weirdest biz expense claims The UK’s tax collector isn't compiling the oddest top 10 from the last decade simply to …

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Pint

    bangers and fries

    You bastard. I'm hungry already, and we're only having pasta this evening, because we have to rush out.

    Just as well there's bacon & black pudding in the freezer for tomorrow. And at one of [see icon] this evening.

    1. JakeMS
      Thumb Up

      Re: bangers and fries

      As much as I love Bangers n' Chips (And a good bacon butty). I do love pasta bake too, with bits of bacon and cheese melted over the top. I also had this tonight.

      1. My-Handle

        Re: bangers and fries

        While we're on this culinary adventure, my port of call tonight was a good rib-eye steak (medium-rare). Been looking forward to it all week :)

        The other half's on a low-carb diet, so sadly both pasta and chips are off the menu.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: bangers and fries

          I wish butchers here in France knew what a rib-eye cut was ☹

          1. robidy Bronze badge

            Re: bangers and fries

            I have a similar feeling about anglicised Chinese and Indian restaurants.

            1. Benson's Cycle

              Re: bangers and fries

              I once went to a birthday celebration in Greek Street. Along the guests was someone who had just returned from Hong Kong. He was delegated to order.

              He told us the conversation with the waiter went like this:

              -Please take this away and bring me the Cantonese menu.

              -English people do not like Chinese food.

              -These English people do like Chinese food.

              -English people would not understand the menu.

              -Have you noticed I am speaking to you in Cantonese?

              The dinner lasted three hours and was superb.

          2. baud Bronze badge

            Re: bangers and fries

            The terms are different in France, try asking for an entrecôte or a cote de boeuf. You should get the same part.

          3. St Deiniol

            Re: bangers and fries

            In France try ordering Entrecôte :-)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: bangers and fries

              In France try ordering Entrecôte :-)

              That's rarely a true rib-eye with proper marbling, more often a contre-filet (closer to sirloin)

        2. spold Silver badge

          Re: bangers and fries

          >> The other half's on a low-carb diet, so sadly both pasta and chips are off the menu.

          That's ok... you get to munch hers. (Vicar).

        3. Joe W Silver badge

          Re: bangers and fries

          Bah, low carb is good: Steak and salad!

          1. skswales

            Re: bangers and fries

            That brought back memories of a good meal in Reims 20yrs ago at restaurant "Boeuf ou Salade"

            1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: bangers and fries

              When I was working in Germany many years ago, I was staying at a small hotel close to the chemical plant. I was intrigued to see "Toast" on the menu on the first evening, at a fairly hefty price for what should have been a simple piece of cooked bread. I asked for details, and was told that it was a house speciality, consisting of a round of toasted bread, surmounted by a steak, then a poached egg, and topped off with either a pepper or Hollandaise sauce, with a side salad. I ordered it, and it was delicious. I spent five nights in that hotel, and guess what I had for dinner every evening.

              1. Toni the terrible

                Re: bangers and fries

                In a German Hotel; I asked for hot chocolate (the drink) and was given chocolate sauce on a plate - I couldnt be bothered to clear up the mixup - if it wasnt just a 'Joke'. Never went back there, there are many more Hotels to use.

                1. Benson's Cycle

                  Re: bangers and fries

                  Incomprehensible indeed.

                  One of the things that made an early flight from the old Munich airport tolerable was the huge can of hot chocolate with cream you could get at the cafeteria to go with breakfast. And I still have functioning arteries.

            2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: bangers and fries

              "Boeuf ou salade" or "Boeuf au salade"? The former sounds like it might be the French approach to "veganuary"...

    2. Imhotep

      Re: bangers and fries

      "we're only having pasta this evening"

      ONLY? Then you're not doing it right. I'll send you an invite for the next time my wife cooks spaghetti or pasta con broccoli. The wisest move of my life was marrying in to an Italian family with unflexible standards on cooking.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: bangers and fries

        Well, it was "only" spinach and ricotta parcels with smoked salmon and crème fraîche, but at the time I read the article bangers & chips sounded mouthwatering.

  2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Trollface

    Naughty list

    I wouldn't mind, but I got mine in before the deadline and a week before Christmas what did I get for my troubles?

    Yup, a 5-grand bill!

    And they didn't even send it in a Christmas card. Bah humbug, bastards...

    1. Psmo Bronze badge

      Re: Naughty list

      At least it wasn't a lump of coal.

      I hear the carbon-offset paperwork is checled by weight.

    2. TwistedPsycho

      Re: Naughty list

      Don't worry. I had a 'todoo' with them this week.

      Had a legitimate £2500 Bill for 2018/19 so I paid it. I also had a 'pre-demand for 2019/20' which I declared not required [what's the actual wording??] Due to a change of circumstances.

      Three weeks after paying and getting the confirmation of the change to 19/20 - I get a statement requesting £4500 for 18/19 and prepayment for 19/20.....

      Cue a 30 minute wait in the queue to tell them about long walks off short planks....

  3. thosrtanner

    Where's the link to the list??

    1. Lost In Clouds of Data
      FAIL

      Correcting the fail

      Apparently the folks at Vulture Central had already fucked off down to t'pub for the Friday night bevvies, before adding the link.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/news/self-assessment-returns-unbelievable-excuses-and-dubious-expenses

      I'd do the same but I'm stuck in the States. Distinct lack of good pubs here.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Correcting the fail

        "Distinct lack of good pubs here."

        There's a good one in Vegas. Crown and Anchor

        Pretty decent steak and mushroom pie and Guinness on tap. Football on the telly and the girls aren't hard on the eyes. If they just had fruit of the forest pie with custard for afters.......

        1. Lost In Clouds of Data

          Re: Correcting the fail

          I'm in Ohio. Not exactly Staggering distance...!

    2. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      I guess the web monkeys here haven't mastered linked lists yet...

  4. IGotOut

    Bangers and Fries?

    Fries?

    You bloody namby pamby southerners you should be ashamed of yourselves. Next you'll be saying you put mayo on them

    1. keith_w

      Re: Bangers and Fries?

      Or instead of just fries, dress them up as poutine

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bangers and Fries?

        Is that where you eat them bare-chested atop a horse?

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Bangers and Fries?

          Or make a chip butty using salty biscuits?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bangers and Fries?

          Nah, that's Poutin. Poutine would be bare chested lady on a horse or, for fewer brownie points, French Canadian food.

    2. Toni the terrible

      Re: Bangers and Fries?

      I do like a bit of Mayo on Chips - due to going to Belgium a lot.

  5. katrinab Silver badge
    Meh

    “Dog ate it” can be a valid excuse

    So says the Tribunal. But you can only use it once. As soon as you discover that your furry friend likes the taste of tax returns, you are expected to take steps to guard them from the animal.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I actually had...

    The website crash and not accept the application. It said come back in 30 mins. I then forgot until a week later. Thankfully they did let me off that time. Must have been low server uptime and lots of attempts from others too.

  7. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

    I got a letter in the post (see attachment) expressing their condolences on my having died, then demanding my next of kin pay my remaining bills.

    Since I don't have any next of kin & I was supposedly dead, I sent them a reply to stick their bill where the sun didn't shine.

    We went back & forth for the better part of the year with them insisting I was dead, me retorting that I felt perfectly fine.

    Cue the Monty Python skit with me wanting to go for walkies & some nasty bloke giving me a club to the head.

    I woke up in an old folks home being force fed dried frog pills.

    *Sigh*

    I'll fill out my tax forms just as soon as my doctors rescind my death papers.

    (As silly as this sounds, it actually happened to my biological father one year - someone at the hospital entered his SocialSecurityNumber by mistake & it took bloody forever to get *their* fuckup corrected & my father's non-dead status reestablished.)

    1. Montreal Sean

      Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

      @ Shadow Systems

      I misread that as "fried dog pills"

      I may need more sleep.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

        You just didn't want to get into any sort of Trademark litigation.

        Hello Mr. Weasel, puts some sprinkles on mine.

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

      HMRC: Sorry you are dead and we have the forms to prove it

      Client: well if I'm dead I guess that lets me off paying you any tax

      HMRC: you dont get off that easily..........

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

        The film version of this is called "Brazil"

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

          Spending a year dead for tax reasons ?

      2. TwistedPsycho

        Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

        I would actually walk into the tax office and tell then "You say I am dead"

        Security can't remove ghosts.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

          The refuse to talk to you on the very reasonable grounds that they don't talk to dead people

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Sorry I'm late, my doctors claimed I'd died...

          Who they gonna call?

  8. Keith Oborn

    They do have a sense of humour sometimes

    Year before last I found a bug in the property section of the online form. Called up. "Let me try it" she said. Pause. Oh dear, you're right."Good" I said "is there a bug report bounty?" Cue helpless giggling from tax lady.

    On a more serious note, I have by my desk the case files for a friend, recently deceased, who was the only private person ever to win the right to take HMRC to the European Court of Human Rights.You *can* beat the man.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: They do have a sense of humour sometimes

      Now I have the image of getting a package from HMRC with a chocolate bar in it..

      (and a form to mark it as a benefit in kind, and therefore not tax deducible)

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: They do have a sense of humour sometimes

      "You *can* beat the man."

      Well, you say that, but your mate is dead now, while HMRC are still going strong.

      All they have to do is outlast you.

  9. Peter Prof Fox

    As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

    HMRC's IT. Over the years they think I've filed 3 times late. They won't take me to court to get their money though because they daren't put their systems under the slightest scrutiny. One year I got a £73 refund then a non-filing complaint. How could they give me a refund if they hadn't had the return? You tell me. Every year my tax return reiterates these things but they take no notice. So HMRC need to get their own house on order before moaning at other people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

      I have to ring up HMRC every year to give them numbers for my dividends, savings interest, and Gift Aid donations. Otherwise my PAYE is straightforward.

      Last year - after a few months delay - they offered me a large refund. I had to ring them again to point out they had failed to transcribe the significant interest on one of my savings accounts

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

      Online filing. Yes, the system that refuses to accept such esoteric characters as £ - & % / : and newline. Meaning you have to go in circles to write things such as: the income during 2017-18 from Alice & Bob Ltd was split 50%/25%/25% between: Fred, Jim and Sheila.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

      Fortunately I've been PAYE for many years, so not had to deal with HMRC for years.

      However, when I was much younger, they sent me a letter saying they weren't quite sure if I'd paid the correct amount of tax, and would I please send them my pay slips from the last three years.

      Now, I was just a kid then, so all the jobs I'd had up to that point were in the local pub, working for minimum wage, and often cash in hand. I had about six months of (mostly) legit pay stubs at that point, but I decided to to take the easy route, and just ignored the letter.

      Six month later I got another letter. It said that they'd checked the records and had actually paid too much tax, and included a cheque for £500.

      I have no idea where they got that idea from, but I kept quiet and have been fortunate enough to avoid their attention ever since.

      1. R0CKY

        Re: As useless a a hat full of busted arseholes

        "Fortunately I've been PAYE for many years, so not had to deal with HMRC for years."

        Don't be lulled into a sense of false security.

        I've been PAYE my entire 35 year working life, that didn't stop them sending me a bill for a £900 underpayment. Followed by a fine of £45 for late payment - even though they sent me a letter stating they would be TAKING the £900 via a tax code change the next year!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sausage and Chips

    No Gravy? Sacrilege, no wonder they rejected it.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Sausage and Chips

      Birmingham?

      (UK)

    2. Phil Kingston

      Re: Sausage and Chips

      Curry sauce or GTFO

  11. chivo243 Silver badge

    "My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me”. One wonders if that man is still married."

    In this day and age, that might not be a very accurate observation. I know of many lady couples. Although, the excuse is still very valid!

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      There are also more than a few Wiccans around, it's quite possible the MiL was a witch.

      I know a lady couple in Ibiza one of whom is a shaman, does the dancing, chanting and waving a JuJu stick to cure people (not too sure what of).

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        "does the dancing, chanting and waving a JuJu stick to cure people (not too sure what of)."

        Cures them of the contents of their wallets, me thinks...

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Last year I met someone who is a professional dead spirit wrangler. That's not what she called herself but it was a mix between non-religious ceremony conductor, grief councillor and tax adviser.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think the tax office do something similar when it comes to calculating your tax. Or was it just throwing a dart at a dart board? Maybe a combination of both, after half a dozen pints of Stella....

      4. Toni the terrible

        Ju Ju

        Of Life?

  12. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Excuses

    The robotics student who claimed his homework ate the dog?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's The Same The Whole World Over...

    I live in Canada; I work in the US.

    I recently received a VERY aggressive letter from the US IRS that I hadn't filed my tax return... which I had. On calling the IRS, the lady said "Yes, it's posted but not reviewed. They didn't check on the system", or words to that effect.

    Anonymous because I've had many, many issues with the IRS, and it's not wise to pi$$ them off.

    1. Stork Silver badge

      Re: It's The Same The Whole World Over...

      No it's not. In Switzerland, I took our paperwork down to the tax office to ask if I understood the guidance correct. I was also told we could submit a supporting document in Portuguese, the boss knew Spanish,took a look and understood.

      People we knew were even reminded to declare expenses.

      Apparently it varies by municipality, but to us it came across as a matter of professional pride that we should pay the correct amount of tax

      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        Re: It's The Same The Whole World Over...

        Even Brits aren't necessarily utterly useless with foreign documents ...

        When I returned to Blighty from several years in Italy, there was one piece of bureaucracy that worked. I was able to get car insurance with maximum no-claims bonus based on a letter from my Italian insurer.

        Other matters were much more problematic, but methinks we're already off-topic here.

    2. Trygve Henriksen

      No, it's NOT The Same The Whole World Over...

      I'm in Norway, and so far I've checked the pre-filled form online, and will probably just sign off on that.

      If I don't bother to check or sign it one year, the system will automatically accept it on the last day.

      And yes, I get a bit of money back most years.

      1. Stu_The_Jock

        Re: No, it's NOT The Same The Whole World Over...

        So true. I actually asked my employer to pay a little extra each month to pretty much guarantee a refund every year. Never yet found anything inaccurate on my Norwegian tax return, even down to the balance on my store loyalty cards. I always buy something expensive on a credit card in December that work will pay for, just for that little dexra reduction.

  14. earl grey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    enough frivolities

    did i miss the damn survey results?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    File my taxes?

    Does one know just how long one must wait to import a crate of Moët to one's yacht in the Maldives?

    We have been rather busy.

  16. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Terminator

    It's funny....

    It's like they're trying to show us they're human in the HMRC by having a sense of humour.

    Hasn't worked mind. The heartless gits*.

    *still bitter over one year (along time ago and paying allot less than now)I changed jobs, all using PAYE and got demands for missed payments. Cue sending copies of payslips proving this wasn't the case and got a letter back... That agreed I had paid the required tax. But they still wanted to take the tax anyway because they'd said they would.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: It's funny....

      I got a letter reporting that I had failed to submit PAYE returns for a company of mine.

      For the year after the (non-trading) company had been closed, struck off, HMRC informed, etc.

      So we have a company with no income, no employees and doesn't exist, being threatened with fines/etc for not supplying information that couldn't exist in the first place!

    2. james_smith Silver badge

      Re: It's funny....

      Got put on an emergency tax code by one employer ... a year later a new member of the finance team noticed and let me know. I contact HMRC for a refund on the overpaid tax. The cheque was "in the post" three times but never arrived. In the end I gave up. Kafkaesque to the max.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: It's funny....

        Don't they just adjust your tax code so you get your refund in the salary payments?

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: It's funny....

          Depends how big the discrepancy is. And the phase of the moon. And a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon fulfilment centre.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's a blog that describes in detail how wonderful their service is (sarcasm) --> http://hmrcisshite.blogspot.com .

    On the technical side, I hear they had systems developed in Scala, the functional programming language. This was of course done by contractors, who either left or charge very high rates after I-R-3-5. They have farmed out a lot of work again adding to the cost, after spending a fair bit of money and time trying to internalise it all.

    Could we have a list of all of their hopeless excuses for a poor service? "Computer says no!". I guess you will never hear - we chose an obscure programming language and cannot support the systems due to staff shortages which are a result of our own tax rules!

    1. james_smith Silver badge

      I hear they had systems developed in Scala

      An absolute mess of a programming language, that to paraphrase a description of C++ is "an octopus made by nailing extra legs onto a dog".

      1. trolleybus

        C++ was explained to me as follows.

        C is like a shed. Its roof leaks, its windows are broken and the paint is peeling.

        C++ is also like a shed. Its roof leaks, its windows are broken and the paint is peeling. But it has a swimming pool, jacuzzi and a satellite dish.

  18. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

    It has to be asked

    “My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me”

    Did she turn 'im into a newt?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: It has to be asked

      Yes, but he got better.

  19. Bob the Skutter

    I was late this year doing mine, only submitted in October, done around June/July time normally.

    Given tax year ends in April and got 10 months to submit surely no excuse not to complete

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] surely no excuse not to complete

      People may be dependent on numbers from other sources. I have to chase a charity to give me a total for the year's total Gift Aid value of my donated goods and coin boxes. It makes a significant reduction to my higher tax bill.

      HMRC say they will reclaim Gift Aid from the donor if not enough income tax had been paid to offset it. That implies they correlate a charity's claims with the donor's tax records. It would save work if they used that input automatically when calculating the donor's tax. The same applies to dividends and savings interest - numbers apparently they no longer expect the big companies to send to them.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Ditto, it's usually September by the time I've got all the numbers needed to do mine. When some stuff arrives as three-monthly statements, it can be August before you've got paperwork that only contains stuff in April onwards.

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

          Anyone else wish you could start a tax return during its own tax year? So you could enter things as you go along, especially those things that don't get summarised for tax purposes at year-end (like PAYE).

          Last few years I've had a one-off taxable payment around the end of January (about £200-ish). By April, when I can start filling the tax return, the only record I have of it is the payment into my bank account. This year I don't even have that, as I've closed the bank account in question.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
            Devil

            That would be sensible, well thought out, transparent and useful. So HMRC will have none of it.

      2. trolleybus

        "HMRC say they will reclaim Gift Aid from the donor if not enough income tax had been paid to offset it. That implies they correlate a charity's claims with the donor's tax records .... "

        It does, but they don't. All the charity collects for a Gift Aid claimant is their name, address and the date of their declaration. No DoB, NI number or wany other easy way of linking to a tax account. In fact I've long thought that HMRC seem to have no interest in policing the scheme.

        1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

          They will indeed collect it: it all resolves in the tax return, where you declare charitable donations and gift aid. Makes no difference to basic rate taxpayers ('cos that's already the assumption when the charity 'reclaimed' it), but if you pay higher rate you get the excess refunded, and if you pay zero rate, you have to make up the amount reclaimed by the charity.

          Important to watch if - like me - your annual taxable income varies between all those bands. No tax to offset, no gift aid.

          If you don't fill a tax return, then none of the above applies, and I expect you're probably right about them then ignoring it.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder if they've seen

    "My machine got infected with ransomware and both backup drives, the CDRW and HDD got encrypted"

    Actually have seen this, about the only advice given was "Which has the higher cost?" Turns out paying the ransom unfortunately was cheaper at least for PowerWare at $500 versus $$$$$$$$ for not completing on time: the file needs to be readable so submitting an encrypted return won't help.

    Lesson learned, have backups on something which can't be overwritten. M-Disc works but only if you close the session.

    Paper backups also work.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Passport Office in London probably has a list of reasons given for issuing passports to callers in a hurry. In the 1970s the company wanted me to go to an overseas office to sort an urgent problem. Needing a passport I joined the queue. The excuse of the couple in front of me was that they were due to travel - and their child had dropped the family passport in a bowl of syrup on the breakfast table. The pages of the very stick mess were carefully prised apart to verify its validity.

  22. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

    That guard dog story is one I heard many years ago, as a young grad. Told by a friend who went into beancounting the same time as I took my first hacking job. They were auditing someone who tried to claim dog food against tax. They (the auditors) had met the dogs in question in circumstances where a guard dog should've seen them off, and the dogs had been entirely friendly. They disallowed that claim.

    As for the mother-in-law joke, that of course comes from an era of much more acute housing shortage than today's "crisis", when young couples would live for years on the mother-in-law's couch before they could get their own place. Naturally the mother-in-law walking in and out cramped a chap's style, and the classic joke was a safety-valve for pent up frustration.

    What's this year's excuse? I just had a minor hiatus, where I'd lost all record of a modest (£200-ish) taxable commission-rebate payment. A simple 'phone call got me a copy of that from the rebater.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Naturally the mother-in-law walking in and out cramped a chap's style, [...]"

      When my parents married in 1938 they lived with the maternal parents for a while. My father and mother were forbidden to be upstairs together during the day time.

      Contrast that with the generation born since about 1990 - where kids bring their current love interest home for the night with their parents' acceptance. Not that the latter always approve of the current chosen one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Contrast that with the generation born since about 1990 - where kids bring their current love interest home for the night with their parents' acceptance. Not that the latter always approve of the current chosen one.

        I, and my siblings, were all born in the 1970s. I don't think my parents were particularly liberal at the time (one was a hospital consultant, the other a GP, and I doubt either has ever voted anything other than tory). The same sort of thing was perfectly acceptible to them. I suspect your parents were just very socially conservative and/or religious.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The same sort of thing was perfectly acceptible to them. I suspect your parents were just very socially conservative and/or religious."

          My parents were typical of their UK generation born before the 1920s.. The watershed was in the fabled 1960s when children born in the 1930s or war-time still conformed to the rigid conventions of courtship and marriage.

          The post-war 1940s Baby-boomers like myself came of age on a cusp. Many of my school pals still married early, had children immediately, and lived near to their parents. However - it was a time of social mobility and many of us left our home towns for our careers. While not quite the mythical Swinging Sixties in most of the UK - there was a trend towards a more permissive attitude to relationships that became more evident in the 1970s.

          It was still a long rocky road to the current social attitudes. The pendulum can still swing back as populist politicians court the conservative and religious groups who still seek to impose their restrictive dogma on civil law.

      2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        My father and mother were forbidden to be upstairs together during the day time.

        They had an actual bedroom? Luxury!

  23. tiggity Silver badge

    Hamster

    That sounds a valid excuse

    We had a hamster that would leave ts hamster home every night, roam the house and return to its home for the daytime.

    It loved to grab paper or card and shred it for nesting material.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Hamster

      Hamster

      That sounds a valid excuse

      In fact my son's school blazer was eaten by a gerbil as he had been hung it brand new on a hanger and was against the cage. The rodents got hold of it, pulled the cloth through and gave it a severe chewing.

  24. EnviableOne Silver badge

    Surley the music subscription, as long as it comes along with a PRS licence to play it in the office is justifiable

  25. streaky

    Just to be clear..

    In case there's people reading his who are from third world countries* with absurdly inefficient tax systems designed to kick up maximum fuss every year given the headline could be slightly confusing: the vast majority of people in the UK don't file tax returns.. It's about 12 million before you ask - which surprised me it's that high, suspect a good chunk of that is why IR35 exists..

    * Like the US..

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Income Tax Hell

    Once had some hassle because I was out of work for a while and was told by someone at HMRC to put unemployment benefit down as "JSA"

    Years later, got a 4 figure bill which was actually higher than my monthly income and a "must be paid within 14 days" note, did the calculations and it would have put me in effective bankruptcy for nearly a year.

    After seriously looking into emigrating to Russia and actually getting as far as obtaining the forms, I eventually found out that they had put it down as a UK benefit by mistake, and it wasn't necessary to put it on the form in the first place.

    Orwell was an optimist.

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