Private Investor: It's my money, taxwoman: ask me nicely for it
Saturday 12 January 2008
I know it's a little past the festive season, but I have been away, and I feel as though I need to share my latest brush with the taxman with you.
OK, let's get a few ground facts out of the way. My tax return for last year, and I mean the previous tax year, was very late. A year late. I developed a phobia towards it. Left all the paperwork in a folder, put the folder in the bottom of a drawer, locked the drawer, and put the drawer and the desk in a lead-lined nuclear bunker under the Irish Sea where it was to be left for 100,000 years. OK not the last bit. But I did just want it to go away. I couldn't cope with it. I can't "do" the tax calculation thing.
Every year you, like me, may find yourself in possession of an official HM Revenue and Customs "tax calculator". This is designed to help you work out what you owe the state.
Well, very soon you will start encountering negative numbers, and then trying to divide zero by negative numbers, which doesn't make the experience any more, erm, positive. Then you have to subtract negative numbers from irrational ones and the whole thing becomes absurd. Then you give up and forget about it.
I have a confession: the £200 in fines I collected last year for my tardiness are actually a price worth paying just to have the thing go away for a while. I really did feel nauseous when I thought about my tax return.
So I know I'm guilty of a crime, of failing to provide a tax return. However, let us examine my punishment – I mean apart from the statutory fines. The mental punishment. I received a seasonal phone call on 21 December, practically the last day before Christmas, from the HMRC's sinisterly named "compliance department".
It was unpleasant. I was threatened with all sorts of pain, I think up to and including the bailiffs, if I didn't get my return in pretty much straight away. I was made to feel like a criminal, which I suppose I am, but I don't think a very serious one. I mean, the HMRC sit there and watch £4bn a year – yes, really – go missing in "missing trader" or "carousel" VAT fraud, which puts my offence in context.
I know I'd had a year to get my act together, but HMRC chasing things up when Santa is making his way down the chimney is a macabre joke: "the taxman who stole Christmas". Actually it was a taxwoman, which somehow makes it more unnatural. What a bitter, sour, malign bunch of grinches they are at the HMRC.
I was supposed to go to the local tax office on Christmas Eve and go through the forms. Christmas Eve! Ringing around the various HMRC unhelpful lines, I was told that there was no tax office near where I lived and that I'd have to travel 30 miles. That, by the way, was erroneous, but no matter. No matter, either, that the phone number they give you to pay your bill doesn't work, or that the various officers give you different versions about how and when you can file a late return. (Not online, for a start, you see, so they make you reliant on the postal service at Christmas. Congratulations to clever old HMRC for that logistical breakthrough.)
The only satisfaction I managed to extract from this gang of nasties was when I suggested that I put my details on a disc and get TNT to courier it over to the nearest tax office. Apparently you're not allowed to be sarcastic to HMRC officers.
Anyway, I've now calculated, on the back of a fag packet, and paid my tax bill. Once I'd realised I could quite easily work out the bill from first principles and I'd abandoned their incomprehensible and useless "tax calculator", everything became simple. They cleaned me out, just in time for my Christmas shopping, for which I will never forgive them.
The HMRC have many enemies, some justified, some unjustified. I like to think that I'm happy to pay my taxes, but I'd like to be asked nicely for them. It's my money, earned by me, after all. One oughtn't forget that. To make me work out how much I have to hand over seems to be adding insult to financial injury. It's a sadistic business, self-assessment.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
- 3 Car tax disc changes: Two days to go - and they affect you much more than just not displaying a piece of paper
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Benefits 'smart cards' plan revealed by Iain Duncan Smith to stop claimants spending welfare money on alcohol
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...
NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...
£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...
Day In a Page
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors