Saturday, 3 December 2016

Gain Inner Peace by Filing Your Tax Return

Found inner peace? Not.

It's so easy to file your taxes on-line!


Go paperless. Submit your tax return on-line.


Gain inner peace by filing your taxes on-line.

I've just wasted about three days of my life trying to gain this inner peace. My rug is badly chewed. I have carpet fibres in my teeth and bald patches on my head.

Like so much government double-speak - like, 'We're in this together' and 'The NHS is safe in our hands' - they know very well that not a word, not a syllable, not a letter of it is true, but still, they stoutly maintain these falsehoods in the face of our boos and hisses.

I first logged on to complete my return a couple of months ago. I found that it had been partly filled in for me by some HMI gremlin. The gremlin stated that I had been paid a sum of money as an employee. Because I had been paid this sum, I owed Pay-As-You-Earn tax.

This was completely wrong. I haven't been employed by another party for about 40 years. Even when I was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, even when I go into schools to give talks and workshops, I retain my self-employed status, as do most writers.

The money that HMI had its underpants twisted about had nothing to do with employment. It came from a matured investment.

Long, long ago, O Best Beloveds, back in the stone-age, it was not possible for a self-employed person to have a personal pension. So, thinking that I should salt away a few quid for my old age, I opened a 'Retirement Account' into which I intended to stuff what little surplus moolah came my way.

Almost immediately after I opened it, the law changed and I was able to set up a personal pension, which seemed the better option. I couldn't take the money from the Retirement Account: it was in there for the long term. So I just left it. I added no more to it.

Then old age came upon me and I was notified that the account had matured. The matured pot was hardly life-altering. It wouldn't have bought a Tory MP a pedigree duck, let alone build a duck house. So I took it as cash. It was this money that HMI were claiming was payment for employment that I owed PAYE on.

Baphomet. Contact Him @widdershins...
I attempted to correct the on-line form. This only resulted in a lot of red splatter and big error messages. It wouldn't allow me to go forward to the next page until I had corrected the 'errors.'

So I wrote to the Taxman, asking what I should do. I suggested they send me a paper tax form which wouldn't answer back when I filled it in.

I wrote to them because my experience of trying to contact tax people by phone is dismal. It's much easier to contact Baphomet. With the taxman, even if you have a cup of coffee and a book and hang on the phone for hours, when you finally get through, you are immediately cut off. Deliberately, I suspect. Now, I have relatives that work in tax-offices and so I've heard something of the pressure tax-office workers are under and I don't blame them. Much.

Months passed. And finally, I got a letter from HMI. It said I was now too late to return a paper tax-form without being fined. Phone the number on the letter, it said, to be talked through the problem.

So I phoned, luckily without high expectations, and explained. A bored young woman said, "Oh, just ignore it and when you get to any other comments, put an explanation in there. When we check the form, we'll see it."

I went back to the on-line form. Whenever you sign in now, you get a phone-call from a rather abrupt robotic female who dictates a number to you. To some numbers she gives a Russian accent, while others she speaks as a South African. Occasionally she sounds a bit American. It's often quite hard to tell what numbers she's saying because, just as you've got used to one barely comprehensible accent, she springs another on you. And then snaps, "Goodbye."

I went through this rigmarole with her several times because as soon as I got into the HMI site, it crashed, putting up a message 'We are having problems. Try again later.' This happened at least three times.

When I finally managed to log on, all those big red letters and error messages about owing money on PAYE had vanished. The gremlins had been in again, tidying up.

Still, I thought I ought to mention it in 'any other comments' just to make sure the mistake was understood. I wrote in a few words, but wasn't allowed to submit them. Red error messages again. And then the whole site crashed.

Another conversation with the woman with the strangely shifting accent. Another crash. And so the long winter evenings wore on. How glad I am to have HMI and their number-fixated friend to pass the time with. I've nothing better to do after all.

With perseverence, I got back on the site - and somehow, everything was okay, my message was suddenly acceptable and I'm allowed to submit. My tax return is, finally, done.

If this terrible site, with its glitches and crashes, had delayed me until January 31st, I'm sure HMI would have gleefully fined me. Or is that the reason why the site is so bad? To give an excuse to fine people?

Filing on-line is easy? It provides inner peace? Whoever came up with those slogans, they owe me a new rug and I would like to eat their young. Baphomet has some great recipes.


Jenny Alexander said...

I've derived some comfort from this post, Sue. At least it makes me feel less alone. I spent approximately 3 days myself trying to file my return, much of the time on the phone not getting through to a human being, or online doing what an adviser assured me would work - my problem, that the site has decided not to recognise me, and is completely determined never to let me in again. This is the second year I've eventually had to send a paper return, and I'll probably go straight to that option next year, to save myself the carpet chewing and banging-head-on-desk. Of course, emblazoned across the envelope when the assessment arrived there were the bitterly ironic assurances that I could pay online, and it would be far easier to file on line next time.

Susan Price said...

Jenny, you have likewise provided me the same comfort. Government sites and big companies often have &*£! awful websites, for some reason, so you half expect trouble and it would be easier to bear if only they wouldn't keep telling you that it's all so blissfully easy.

madwippitt said...

I always do paper ... can't do all that work-it-out-yourself stuff ... so glad, having read this, that I do. Shame about your carpet though ... might replacing it, in view of the cause of the damage, be tax deductible :-)

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