Hallo #Steven Banyard, Acting Director General Personal Tax at Her Majesty\’s Revenue & Customs – are you listening?

Unlike most people, I don\’t hate the taxman. I don\’t like paying tax, obviously, but if you want to live in a civilised society, you have to pay for it.
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I do my own tax forms and ever since I could no longer afford an accountant, I\’ve always made an appointment with a proper tax inspector to check the forms before I file them.
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I did file online for a few years on the excellent website HMRC started with. Unfortunately HMRC then switched providers to a bunch of bozos who didn\’t even number the sections so you could refer back to them and made the whole online form so impossibly complicated and frustrating, I went back to paper.
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For years I\’ve made my April visits to the Truro tax office, usually to a lovely man called Simon. He made sure I didn\’t claim any expenses I shouldn\’t and put everything in the right boxes.
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He\’s gone now. Retired. HMRC is presently being run by the usual bunch of besuited bozos. They\’ve made it almost impossible to get through to a human being on the number they give you for Self-Assessment enquiries; instead, they waste your time with a ten minute recording on the wonders of their online presence and then cut you off because all their advisors are busy.
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Or you\’ll be sitting in the Truro tax office, for example, wanting to get the extra pages you always need to declare your various sources of income (which they haven\’t sent you). Also you want to make an appointment at the Truro tax office to check over your forms as usual.
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This is how you now have to do it. The girl at the tax office where you\’re sitting calls a secret number on their phone so you can talk to an advisor. He does an identity check. Then you ask him to send you the extra pages (which always used to be stored in the grey filing cabinet in the corner). He promises to send them. Then you tell him you want an appointment to check your form. Then he promises to contact Truro tax office (where you\’re sitting) to ask them to arrange an appointment for you. Then they have to phone you later (though you\’re sitting there) to arrange the appointment for next week. As my daughter\’s lovely friends say: *facepalm*
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Steven, dearie, I know you want to stop paying for tax inspectors and offices and all that, but you\’re missing the bigger picture.
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Let\’s assume that, ideally, you want to get people to pay their taxes as fully and willingly as possible, in a world where more and more people are filling in self-assessment forms because they can\’t get into the luxury of a PAYE job. How do you encourage them to do that? Do you do it by making the process as stupidly bureaucratic and complicated as possible?
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No, Steven, you don\’t. You make it simple and easy. Otherwise every time you prosecute someone who got their taxes wrong because of your stupid complications, you create another implacable enemy of the tax system and the government. Produce enough of them and you\’ve got the situation in the USA, where paying tax is regarded as a sign of being feeble-minded and poor. Carry on that way and revolution is a possibility.
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Now I realise that His Cameronness is far too rich ever to have had to deal with his tax forms personally, so I realise he can\’t be expected to understand any of this. Tell him, would you?

Listening to #Patrick Gale at #Waterstones

I don\’t often go to author evenings – I know, I know. It\’s a mixture of envy and embarassment because I often haven\’t read any of their books. This is because, when I\’m writing a book which I usually am, I don\’t want anyone else\’s words in my head, particularly not if they\’re really well-written.

So I hadn\’t read anything by Patrick Gale before seeing him this evening at Waterstones in Truro – but I will once I\’ve finished the next Carey Elizabethan crime novel. He read aloud from his latest book A Perfectly Good Man – very well indeed, which is something not all authors are good at. As #2 son said on the way home – it\’s not the sort of book he\’s normally interested, but now he wants to read it. Patrick Gale also answered fan questions with wry self-deprecating humour which is mandatory for authors, but his felt genuine.

One thing he said which I found fascinating: he writes each of his characters\’ story seperately and then weaves them together in the second draft, which is when he finds out what the book is about. I tend to plod along chronologically but I think I\’ll be trying this method out with the one I\’m writing.

The envy came, of course. I envy his self-discipline to start writing at 9.00 and finish at 2.00 and then do some more in the evening. I feel proud of myself if I get in two hours a day. Hey ho.