Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Taxman

Yeah i know, it was like "Imagine no possessions" as Lennon sat there in the video in his enormous house with his enormous piano and so on.  But it's a song title relevant to this video:

Click to tweet:  http://clicktotweet.com/e3m31 . The Inland Revenue seriously need to get themselves sorted out.

This video, actually, is also connected to my firm belief that there are no bad people, only bad groups of people.  I have nothing against anyone personally in the HMRC, but think their organisation leaves a lot to be desired.

To set things out clearly, the situation is this.  We have until recently been a partnership rather than sole traders because we wanted to set ourselves up as a complementary therapy business into which people could buy annual membership if they chose and also to receive fees from charities to provide respite care and the like.  Unfortunately, this didn't materialise, but we stayed as a partnership.  As a result, we filed both the SA800 partnership tax return and the SA100 personal tax return.  Initially, this was done either by post or in person by going down the local tax office and handing in the forms, but we were repeatedly told we had not filed when we had and could not provide evidence due to the fact that like some other public bodies, the HMRC do not issue receipts for the documents received - the same is true, for example, of Job Centres.  As a result, we chose to file online.

The system whereby the SA100 personal self-assessment tax return is filed is straightforward and free at the point of use.  However, filing an SA800 partnership tax return requires the purchase of commercial software for the task, which only runs on Windows and possibly Macs rather than open source operating systems or Android.  We had a cashflow problem and a hardware problem which made it impossible for us to purchase such software for quite some time, so i wrote to HMRC informing them of this.  This was some time after i had written to them informing them that i now considered myself solely responsible for the partnership tax affairs because of my wife's health problems (which i won't disclose here out of respect for her).

We were, naturally, charged £10 a day per partner for not completing a partnership tax return.  I wrote a letter of complaint to them about this, and have now paid most of my own £770 fine.  However, my wife was also charged in spite of my letter to them, which they said they could not trace.  It also proved impossible to contact them online or by telephone, hence this video.  There was also a glaring spelling mistake in the letter, which did not contribute to my confidence in their ability to do the job properly.  They also stated that the software ("softwear") situation would not change.

My specific objections to the situation are as follows:

- HMRC should either provide both SA800 and SA100 for free or charge for both.
- We have no moral obligation to pay the late fee, although legal coercion will of course be brought to bear upon us.

Since the HMRC is naturally and should be a monopoly and competition would open them up to incompetence, bureaucracy and the interference of commercial interests, it is particularly incumbent upon them to be fair and rational in their dealings with taxpayers.  They are not.  The main problem is communication, but there are a number of others, such as the existence of software for a need which they themselves have created, but which is provided by private companies.  That in particular looks suspicious to me.  Clearly it would not be expedient to charge sole traders because it would be unpopular, but it's inconsistent to charge partnerships for software which has no need to exist, and the whole process has brought HMRC into disrepute in my view, which is something they're not supposed to do.

Obviously this is something different.  I am honestly trying to get through to HMRC with this video because they have a history of failing to acknowledge my attempts to communicate with them, so instead of sending them letters, i've simply decided to do this instead in the vain hope it might go viral on the back of the recent news story about the poor performance of the Inland Revenue.  You never know.

Really what i should be doing, and in fact plan to do this aften, is put together a slideshow on Blueberry and Unrealistic, so that's what i'll do.  Tomorrow's vid will probably be on Asperger's.