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HMRC – now it’s getting personal…

HMRC – now it’s getting personal…

You probably hadn’t noticed but I tend to write quite a lot about the faceless hordes that we affectionately refer to as Hector. Yep, our friend the taxman. Not my favourite person, although, perhaps grudgingly, you have to accept that they are merely doing their job and the real problem is the hopelessly complicated mare’s nest of tax law they are trying to implement. Which is down to a series of inept politicians (isn’t that a tautology?), not least one particularly dim specimen of the breed.

But now it’s getting personal.

I mentioned last week that I’m being chased for a CT bill that was paid, in full and on time. I just checked my online account again and it’s gone up, since they are adding interest to a debt I don’t actually owe. Nor have they responded to my accountant’s attempt’s to find out what’s happening. And the really worrying part is that aspect enquiries are usually triggered by non-payments and poor returns, so not only do they owe me money but I am waiting or another letter where they will offer to look over my records and make sure all is in order.

And then to add insult to injury, I managed to overpay my PAYE last year. Not by any great amount, and I’m still not sure how we managed it – most likely a side effect of restarting a payroll after a 14 month break, not that I really care that much – but the accountant wrote to them to tell them somewhere around last September.

Nothing happened. Gosh…

But today I get a letter from Hector (to be précis, a D. Wrightson) Form P35D, Overpayment Review. Page one is the exact same calculation my accountant sent them last year. Bottom right hand corner is the box “Apparent Overpayment”.

“Apparent”? Are your accounting systems that pitiful that you don’t actually know? Does my accountant telling you the precise amount not indicate that just perhaps it actually is a real honest-to-God overpayment?

Anyway, I have to fill out page 2 of the form. A list of things I may have got wrong. (Hint: none of them). A tick list of which one is actually incorrect. ( Guess what?) And then the last option, “I confirm the return is correct. My explanation is as follows”. Say what? You owe me money, and I have to explain to you why I overpaid you else you won’t give it me back?

And the last sentence is a lulu. Basically “Once I have received your reply, I will make any necessary adjustments and if necessary arrange for any payments to be offset… “

Hey, it is bloody necessary, it’s my money and I don’t want to offset it against anything, I want it back in my bank account where it belongs.

Let’s be clear about this: HMRC is not a service, even at the pitiful level they manage to achieve, it’s a tax collection agency. The only money that is theirs is the amount they are owed. Everything else in excess needs to be paid back, quickly, since it’s not yours and I would rather I got the interest than you. Oh yes, just to add insult to injury, there is no hint of interest being added. Hell no, they only charge that on money they aren’t owed, not on money they do.

Earlier this week a Parliamentary committee had some critical things to say about HMRC’s performance, or rather lack of it. Nice to know they’re keeping up with reality, isn’t it…

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited

Image: Why is this being protected in my fire safe? by someToast

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