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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?

2 Comments

  1. Adele Blewett says:

    I just came across this amusing blog feature whilst today trying to find the telephone number of the Truro office, after the helplines have made a …. Up of sending me my last three years tax printouts which I need for a mortgage application on a house sale that I am on time limits to complete. To cut a long boring story short, I have never seen such incompetence in my life. It it so bad it has got to be deliberate. There is no way it is possible to be that unhelpful without much careful planning. This did make me smile (but I’m still likely to be paying 4% on £250,000 till I complete because of them. Can I claim that back?).

    1. patricia says:

      You know, it might be worth checking if you can. Probably not, but the reaction might be amusing if you’ve got nothing better to do with your time. I’m about to launch into my tax accounts because May and June used to be the best time of year to do it – they’d recovered from the horrors of January and April and weren’t yet on holiday. If you want a textbook case on how to ruin a fairly efficient government service, what’s been done to HMRC in the last few years is an excellent example. I’m still reeling at the sheer gobsmacking stupidity of it. Note to Dave: if you want people to pay up their taxes MAKE IT EASY TO DO CORRECTLY AND HARD TO DO DISHONESTLY. OK? Clear enough for you, Mr Cameron?

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