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Cheers - AE

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The taxmong cometh

I AM DEATH, NOT TAXES. I COME ONLY ONCE.                                                  
                                                  Feet of Clay - Terry Pratchett

And when Taxes come in the form of HMRC they can come all the time, and the Taxmong doesn't let anything get in the way of demanding money. Especially nothing trivial like not actually being owed any.
A damning report from the Treasury Select Committee said that HMRC had sent letters suggesting that taxpayers’ possessions could be seized and sold to pay their tax debts, and that this had been “completely inappropriate” in some cases.
“These letters appear to have been widely used without sufficent thought to whom they were sent to, even being sent to people who did not actually owe money,” the report said.
That's about as inappropriate as it gets really, sending demands to people who don't owe HMRC a penny. I'm afraid I find it all too easy to believe too, since for my first two or three years in Australia I was sent a tax return with the usual threats of fines for not filling it in despite my having told the tax office before I left that I was going and probably for good. Even when, after a number of long distance calls, I'd finally got the damned returns stopped I still kept getting letters at first bollocking me for not paying National Insurance and then almost begging me to start paying again. Admittedly I never had anything threatening property seizure, but having been told by phone and email several times that I didn't earn anything in Britain and didn't plan to ever again I'd the Australian residential address they were putting on the envelopes gave them some kind of clueAnd that's before we even get on to the letters' contents.
Some of these letters stated that payment was needed “to fund the schools and hospitals we all rely on”...
Oh yeah? That include people with no kids because they can't afford a family what with all the tax? That include people who've taken a good look at the NHS and decided that private medicine is for them? Because typically those people have to keep paying the tax for those services they're not going to use. What comes around, goes around. Shove the emotional blackmail somewhere dark and at body temperature, and just be bloody honest: governments treat citizens as cash cows and always have, and not only did the last government overspend massively even by the usual standards of government profligacy but the current wasters can't or won't stop doing it either. Just put that on the fucking demands that you send out to people who don't owe you money - at the least there'll be some who appreciate the honesty.
A spokesman for HMRC, which has been plagued with problems in recent years, said that it had been sending letters to people who owed tax “since the Napoleonic wars”.
Even more inappropriate. Aren't they all dead? Actually it's a shame that HMRC isn't chasing the taxpayers of the early 19th Century - at least those people would find the letters less upsetting and easier to ignore.
The recent problems surrounding PAYE, which resulted in over six million people either being owed tax or owing extra, “have done significant damage to the public perception of HMRC and the tax system more generally”, while the response to telephone calls has been “patchy at best and unacceptable at worst”.
Again, no surprise to me. For about half the years I was on someone's payroll some part of my PAYE was wrong, invariably meaning I was overpaying, and rather than correct it instantly and send me a cheque for the overpayment the bastards always left it to be corrected with a revised code. I'm shocked but not altogether surprised that they're still stuffing it up, and six million people has to be what? A fifth of the workforce? If it wasn't so disgraceful you'd laugh, and they don't have a lot of comfort to offer.
A spokesman for HMRC said the organisation was doing what it could to make things better. “We know we have a lot more to do to improve our services to customers.”
Customers? I think the word you're really looking for is 'victims', and I'm not just playing the taxation-is-theft record here (though it is). British taxpayers seem to be victims of serial and persistent fuckuperation on the part of HMRC.
"But HMRC is in a much stronger position now than in 2010 and plans to go further."
And if you're a UK taxpayer that sentence should chill your soul.
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