Skip to main content
No Taxation Without Representation

Tax credits. The desk at my local MPs office was strewn with constituency correspondence from families suffering real hardship as a consequence of the government’s tax credit fiasco.

Last year, the Inland Revenue spent £15 million attempting to resolve the problems caused by the generation of incorrect payments under Gordon Brown’s flagship tax-credit scheme, which in many thousands of cases has instead of lifting needy families out of poverty, has delivered them into the arms of rapacious money-lenders.

Furthermore, the real cost of administering the scheme has been revealed as costing £403 million a year, nearly £71 per award, in stark contrast with the £22 cost of administering each self-assessment tax forms.

But if you think that this is “eGovernment @ its Best” then you might not have come across the problem with business filing of year-end accounts. I have and for a few hours at least, it sent me into a panic.

Government has been encouraging businesses, especially small ones, to file VAT and tax information directly through its Government Gateway. Having experienced a number of problems with VAT processing in the past, I refuse to file online in the Luddite belief that is safer to use paper and stamps and I wrote last year on how the Revenue managed to receive six copies of my company PIIDs and still manage to send out a fine me for non-submission. They admitted that they had them all but had processed none.

This year’s electronic surprise from the Inland Revenue and now, Customs & Excise came last week, with a call from the Revenue Collections Agency, a department you really don’t want to hear from at any time.

Apparently, the call was a final warning, as they had been allegedly writing to the company accountant, warning him that the company P35s had not yet been received and that PAYE and NI payments remained outstanding for employees for the final quarter of the personal tax year. The gist of the conversation, ever so politely, was that I was in trouble and I had until 8PM, the following day to resolve the matter or face recovery proceedings.

My life flashed in front of my eyes. How could such a thing happen and where had we dropped the ball? The accountant was out until the end of the day and so I started trawling through the files, which contained the P35 details and told me that at least the NI and PAYE payments had been made and reconciled on the bank statement.

I called the Revenue back and explained that my records suggested they had been paid and that most likely, they had the P35 information they needed as well. They gave me another number to call, who gave me another and then another, until I reached the right person in Lothians. “Ah yes,” she told me, “we have all your information, you filed electronically didn’t you?” “We might have done”, I replied “but I can’t contact out company accountant to ask at present.” “You did file online”, she continued “and you’re all up to date. We have had a problem processing the online filing and the collections agency is not supposed to have acted against anyone until this was resolved. I’m really sorry about this, I’ll give them a call and explain and then they’ll leave you alone.”

This little incident took three hours out of my working day and the Inland Revenue has now posted an explanation on their website which you can see below. At what point though in the Revenue’s sorry catalogue of failures, does saying sorry to the citizens and businesses of this country become an inadequate excuse for a display of ineptitude and inefficiency above and beyond the cal of duty?

How much longer can government continue to apologise for failures in its management and electronic systems that continue to cause inconvenience or real hardship to the citizens of this country? "As long as it wants", maybe the answer on present form to date.

Have we sent you penalty notices or reminders by mistake?

In mid-June you might have got an online filing penalty notice or a reminder for form P11Db, even though you had already sent your Return online or the P11Db was not due. Or you may have been approached by our staff for your Return and/or advised you that you may have incurred a late filing penalty. As soon as we found out that these things were happening, we told our staff not to issue any more reminders or penalty notices and discharged any incorrect penalties. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.

I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…