Wednesday, February 01, 2012

HMRC

The Inland Revenue, now known as Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has got to be near the top of the pack when it comes to sheer utter uselessness.

If, say you earn a few pounds doing something else outside your main job then you must declare that income. Fair enough, but the procedure features that mind bogglingly unnecessary complexity that only a huge public sector body with no concern for time, results or value for money could come up with.

First of all you must find out your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). Phoning the number given on HMRC website might seem like a good idea for the first 15 minutes or so whilst you listen to the irritating music occasionally interrupted by a voice telling you how they are receiving an unusually large number of calls at the moment (you will hear this claim whether you phone at 8 am or 3pm on June 5th or Jan 12th). When you do finally get through, you will be told that your UTR cannot be given over the phone (even if you know the answer to every possible security question about yourself), nor can it be emailed to you.

No, no Sir- the UTR must be sent to you by post and this will take up to ten working days! At this point you may be tempted to point out that Amazon could deliver you any one of 5 million items tomorrow if you asked them to, but remember you are not dealing with a private company concerned with their customers' satisfaction. HMRC staff know perfectly well that they will not go out of business no matter how badly they perform.

When your UTR arrives (and it really does take them a fortnight to get it to you), you will rush to your computer, with all the excitement and expectation of a child opening their Christmas presents. After you type it in, you will then be given a 12 digit  'User id' which you must note down as you will need it next time you log in.

(You may be tempted to complain that 12 digits could specify every person on Earth 10 times over, and you have just waited two weeks for your supposedly unique reference number, but don't spoil the moment. You are making good progress and will soon be declaring your hard earned pennies in order to pay your tax to enable some nice Afghan lady to live in a £3 million Kensington home.)

Oh dear! After entering your postcode, you will discover that you need an 'Activation Code' in order to progress further, which of course can only be sent to you in the mail and will take... etc. Now is the time to put your head in your hands and weep. (Don't worry, the nice Afghan lady should be ok).

HMRC is the same organisation that lost the records of 25 million people in 2007 and paid out over a billion pounds in tax credits by mistake. Who better to be put in charge of Customs and Excise with the duty of keeping our borders secure and preventing smuggling?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Put all the facts (amount earned etc.) in a letter and send it to the Inspector of Taxes for your area. Send it recorded and keep a copy....

You have declared it - them not taxing you on it (as they won't) is now their fault.

But put ~40% of the cash into an interest bearign account.

Anonymous said...

And even better - requesting the magic code 12 months ago, forgetting it, then requesting it 9 days before the deadline ensures you won;t get it, andthen you get a £100 fine for not submittitng EVEN IF YOU OWE THEM NO MONEY.

What a racket. Wish I could earn £100 per person by being crap.

Brian, follower of Deornoth said...

I wouldn't wish to be rude, because I do enjoy your excellent blog and sympathise with the difficulties you experience in your professional life, but it is things like this that make decent people despise and detest public-sector employees.

Part of the reason that so much tax is avoided and evaded is that resistance to these disgusting and contemptible looters is felt to be praiseworthy in the productive (rather than the state) portion of the economy.

Again, I wouldn't like you to think this was directed at you.

Anonymous said...

Nice of you to care about the Afgans et al. Getting rid of them and a host of other hangers-on would make the country far more profitable. If they can't afford to live here cheaper to send them back home (by parachute if necessary), and if they want to bomb Boris Johnson and the LXE because they don't like the country again we will assist their passage to another country of their choosing.
Love your posts, but I just wish we had politicians who would put into action the thoughts of most of the natural population.

Duncan

Anonymous said...

There is no reason for it to be that complicated.
Here in Canada everyone files taxes. Usually you use a software package ( some are free, some cost up to $50)

The first year you have to file by post ( use software , print out , mail it in) then you get your rebate cheque in the mail

Subsequent years , they mail you a code , use software to upload file , money deposited in bank account.

Of course it takes a while for you to realize that the nice fat rebate is down to overpaying in the first place

I look at it as a government mandated savings plan !

ColdWater said...

About 5 years ago, I had to go through the process of filling in a self-assesment return, because I had earned a few quid that felt they needed to tax. For the last two years, they have owed me money - because I no longer have that source of income and because of a registration fee I can offset against tax.

I recently received a letter from them, tellimg me they would no longer require me to fill in a self-assesment return.

Hmmmm. I wonder why that can be? Perhaps it is because each year for the last couple of years they have owed me money and think I will decide that the amount I will no longer get back from them is a small price to pay for not having to fill in the form.

They do not know me very well!

Anonymous said...

"At this point you may be tempted to point out that Amazon could deliver you any one of 5 million items tomorrow if you asked them to, but remember you are not dealing with a private company concerned with their customers' satisfaction. HMRC staff know perfectly well that they will not go out of business no matter how badly they perform."
Very true.
Actually it is worse than that. If you forget your password the new one does not work for 4 hours BUT nowhere tells you that. So if you try the new one it fails so you ask for another until you phone the helpline and find out that the new password needs 4 hours before it can work.

"Nice of you to care about the Afgans et al. Getting rid of them and a host of other hangers-on would make the country far more profitable. If they can't afford to live here cheaper to send them back home (by parachute if necessary), "
Very true.

Anonymous said...

Frank, I enjoyed your book and usually enjoy your blog but I must say I disagree with this post. First of all your 10-digit UTC is there in most HMRC correspondence. For example when you registered as self-employed, you got a letter from HMRC with this number on even if you registered online. Also you knew the minute you registered that you'd have to submit a self-assessment, so you obviously requested the 12-digit online login code immediately..? I am also self-employed and have never had any problem with the HMRC, nor did I ever have to call them.

Elisabeth said...

I totally empathise with this! It is so incredibly frustrating trying to even access your Self Assessment online, let alone file it! Luckily I have an accountant in the family, or I would have been stuck!

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