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THE SECRET GARDEN HMRC highlights a decade of

bizarre excuses and expense claims Every year, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) receives some imaginative excuses and expense claims following the 31 January Self Assessment deadline. To wrap up the decade HMRC has highlighted ten of the weirdest and wonderful

5 I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land

4 A music subscription so I can listen to music while I work

ones received

Creating a secret oasis of calm in your garden that provides a bit of privacy and a peaceful place to sit and relax or catch up with friends and family doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. By taking some simple garden planning ideas and adapting them to your own outside living space you can achieve your perfect hideaway without resorting to planting a huge conifer hedge. If your existing fencing is unsightly give it a makeover by painting it or covering it

in climbing plants.

Climbers will add softness and greenery to a fence, encourage wildlife and provide fragrance. And, if you choose wisely, they can also be evergreen that gives a bit of structure to the garden in winter. Jasmine is a classic scented climber, whilst something like Clematis armandii is semi-evergreen. A covered seating area not only adds a bit of height, it allows you to have a secluded hideaway in which to enjoy your garden well into the late summer evenings. A corner of the garden can be a good place to build a structure with a solid roof – or an open roof decked in climbers. Clematis montana will cover a pergola in no time, or for repeat-flowering go for scented roses. Evergreen screening is very effective at blocking out unsightly views whilst at the same time providing a sense of seclusion. For the smaller gardens have a row of single trees or trained trees, whose branches become dense over time such as the evergreen Magnolia grandiflora or Acer platanoides for training. Alternatively you could plant hedging that provides shelter and acts as a sound barrier. Try a living wall with different species of herbaceous plants, including edibles, grown in pockets and fixed to a wall (great for adding interest to plain brickwork).

An arbour makes a delightful seating space and can be erected against a fence or the side of a house or be freestanding. Smothered in jasmine, wisteria, roses or evergreen climbers, it’s not only lovely to look at but a natural sanctuary and with the addition of a bench or garden seating can be a go-to place for unwinding at the end of the day.

As dreams of sitting in a sunny spot in the garden get closer to becoming a reality as the days get longer, there are still things that need doing in the garden. As the RHS says, this month there are signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and wildlife waking up as light levels and temperatures increase. Outdoors, as the garden comes to life again, it’s time to prune shrubs and climbers, such as Wisteria as well as evergreen hedges. Jobs for this month should include:

• Prepare vegetable seed beds and sow vegetables under cover

• Chit potato tubers • Protect blossom on apricots and peaches • Net fruit and vegetables to keep the birds off • Prune winter flowering shrubs that have finished • Divide bulbs such as snowdrops • Prune Wisteria • Prune hardy evergreen hedges • Prune conservatory climbers • Cut back deciduous grasses and remove dead grass from evergreen grasses

National Garden Gift Vouchers can be bought and redeemed at over 2,000 outlets in the UK, with more than 90,000 garden plants and products on offer. Visit to view details of all the outlets that sell and accept them or call 0870 2408237 for more information. You can also buy them online. Why foster with us?

We believe all children deserve to have a safe and loving home

We are a Charity that continually invests in our services to support our foster parents

We are the only Charity in Wales providing a therapeutic fostering service

from customers who missed the deadline over the last ten years. Te top ten most bizarre excuses and questionable expenses claims for items, in reverse order, are: 10 Caravan rental for the Easter weekend

9 I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a post box or get an internet signal

8 My dog ate the post … again 7 Claiming £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days

6 My hamster ate my post

3 Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’

2 A DJ was too busy with a party lifestyle – spinning the deck…. in a bowls club

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

All the excuses and expenses listed above were unsuccessful. Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services, said: “Each year, we try to make it easy and simple as possible for our customers to complete their tax returns and the majority make the effort to do theirs right

and on time. But, we still come across some unusual excuses and expenses which range from problems with a mother-in-law to yachts set on fire. “We always offer help to those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time. It is unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims. “If you have missed the 31 January deadline, get in touch with us now – the earlier we’re contacted, the more we can help.” Te deadline for sending 2018- 19 Self Assessment tax returns to HMRC, and paying any tax owed, is 31 January 2020. Help to complete your return is available on GOV.UK, from the Self Assessment helpline on 0300 200 3310, or on social media.



Fostering a child can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Your time, love and care can be the thing that puts a young life back on track, for a long time. Perhaps forever.

By recruiting the very best foster parents in Wales

Talk to the Charity that always puts families first: Call 01633 270422

Email Facebook: actionforchildrenfosteringwales

Cardiff & South Wales Advertiser - Friday 7th February 2020 - 17

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