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Bureaucracy with a tinge of Madness

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duncan webster26/06/2021 00:46:57
3945 forum posts
63 photos

The problem is that successive governments have made the tax system more and more complicated, and have at the same time cut down the number of tax inspectors massively. Do we wonder that mistakes are made? If you think PAYE is difficult try doing the various returns for a small (one man) limited company.

I think it's all a plot to keep accountants in work at the expense of people who actually create wealth.

Pete.26/06/2021 00:57:03
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796 forum posts
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Posted by duncan webster on 26/06/2021 00:46:57:

The problem is that successive governments have made the tax system more and more complicated, and have at the same time cut down the number of tax inspectors massively. Do we wonder that mistakes are made? If you think PAYE is difficult try doing the various returns for a small (one man) limited company.

I think it's all a plot to keep accountants in work at the expense of people who actually create wealth.

👍 +1

Ady126/06/2021 05:48:59
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5069 forum posts
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Posted by duncan webster on 26/06/2021 00:46:57:

The problem is that successive governments have made the tax system more and more complicated, and have at the same time cut down the number of tax inspectors massively. Do we wonder that mistakes are made? If you think PAYE is difficult try doing the various returns for a small (one man) limited company.

I think it's all a plot to keep accountants in work at the expense of people who actually create wealth.

+2

With the loss of our wealth creation industries they needed a system which supports non wealth creators or there will be political ramifications (excluded persons give us events like Brexit)

It's hard to find a services system that's genuinely useful and "adds real value" to society

By pure luck the most effective jobs creation welfare system ever is the NHS

Government money creating a valued asset which covers the entire country with educated useful people

Circlip26/06/2021 09:08:37
1502 forum posts

Not all are educated or useful.

Regards Ian.

Tony Pratt 126/06/2021 09:15:07
1933 forum posts
12 photos
Posted by Circlip on 26/06/2021 09:08:37:

Not all are educated or useful.

Regards Ian.

From my personal experience you are correct, as in all walks of life the NHS has very good, good, lazy & dire people in it's ranks. It's the best we have got but not perfect.

Tony

Stuart Munro 126/06/2021 17:42:22
108 forum posts

My bank and a credit card company now use voice recognition for any telephone help, Paypal and HMRC use two stage verification - unless the device is 'known' in Paypal's case.

This does alas make the initial verification more rigorous - aka painful. But I share the common observation the mention of needing a NI driving licence smells a lot like a con. Perhaps my smell is off due to covid.

Turning the the NHS - there is no one who can question the value they have given during the pandemic but it is simplistic to believe that all NHS workers add value, I find that there are many 'jobsworths' in non clinical roles. Some are outstanding, others are awful. when there are 1000's of people in a particular role, we will always get a range of ability and usefulness.

Which brings me neatly to the defence of accountants - as an ex accountant I feel that I should but to be honest, who cares! My friends tell me that in retirement I'm trying at last to add real value, but toying at engineering!

Stuart

Nigel Graham 227/06/2021 10:55:40
2053 forum posts
28 photos

Frances -

I am afraid you are missing the point. You seem to mean that if you want to use a computer or indeed 'phone on-line, you need a deep knowledge of programming, well beyond the basics of simply using the thing.

The technical parts of your posts are way above my knowledge. I would not know what Javascript even looks like, but why should I need know such details? I can drive my car and look after it reasonably well, and even have a lay knowledge of how it works; but I don't know how it is designed.

The problem is not that many of us barely know a cookie from a biscuit or Javascript from an Asian island; but that of the risk of being tripped up by ever more skilled criminals who do know and understand computer systems and languages to degree level and beyond. (North Korea even trains hackers formally, such as those who nearly succeeded in deliberately bankrupting Bangladesh.)

The only defence we have against such attackers is careful use and installing reputable anti-virus software; not trying to learn computer langauges we may have no opportunity to be taught, or would find too difficult. Some, including me, would be faced by both obstacles.

peak427/06/2021 11:52:36
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1678 forum posts
179 photos

I've just scan read this thread a couple of times, and wonder if I'm missing something.
Passport and Credit reference I understand.
Does the paperwork actually ask for a Northern Ireland driving licence number or does it say NI driving licence number?
NI as in National Insurance, rather then Northern Ireland?

i.e. they need two out of passport, Credit ref, National Insurance No. or Driving Licence No.

Bill

J Hancock27/06/2021 12:37:56
832 forum posts

Well, I'm going out to celebrate.

After a monster investigation by my pension provider comparing HMRC records with our pensions , the result.

An error in my favour of 0.008% annually .

That will be £1.60 , after tax.

What to buy...................?

Howard Lewis27/06/2021 14:00:23
6032 forum posts
14 photos

I have no expectation of a logical response from any government department.

Years ago,k when Mrs Thatcher decreed that anyone working overseas for more than 8 days would receive a 25% reduction income tax, I was abroad for 3 months.

On my return, Inland Revenue told me that I owed them £579 in tax. I disputed this and sent them the calculation., to show that they owed me. Eventually, I received a cheque for £579!

Not long before this I had been asked;who I was, and where I worked. I had only been there for 5 years!. Then they started sending a new Tax Code every month. Until I suggested that maybe I should bring an accountant with me to discuss my PAYE..

Suddenly everything got sorted out and things returned to normal!

After being made redundant, and hand delivering a claim form, I was eventually asked why my claim was being late being made. My response to the effect that my hand delivered forms had been lost within their office!

That produced a prompt settlement.

When my wife was working, there was a query about her N I contributions. Because she asked questions, to clarify the position, the office asked a Supervisor who lived across the rod from us to come and talk it through with her. She did and within 10 minutes it was sorted!

You can see why I expect very little from Whitehall and its subsidiaries.

Howard

SillyOldDuffer27/06/2021 16:21:44
Moderator
8512 forum posts
1914 photos
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 27/06/2021 10:55:40:

Frances -

I am afraid you are missing the point. You seem to mean that if you want to use a computer or indeed 'phone on-line, you need a deep knowledge of programming, well beyond the basics of simply using the thing.

The technical parts of your posts are way above my knowledge. I would not know what Javascript even looks like, but why should I need know such details? I can drive my car and look after it reasonably well, and even have a lay knowledge of how it works...

Did Frances say people need a deep knowledge of computing to use a computer?

Actually, no need to learn HTML or Javascript to benefit from her clear hint that both are dangerous in emails. Anyone who has HTML or Javascript enabled in their email client would be well advised to turn them off. Your choice.
How much detail lay individuals should know is a tricky question. No one likes being told what to do by Nanny State but following her rules and Guidelines is a good way protecting oneself from personal ignorance. Anyone who relies on their own judgement must spend a lot of time understanding exactly how the world works.

Rather than understand the world, which is incredibly complicated, we mostly trust in what we're told. We wait patiently at railway crossings even when there's no sign of a train. There are always a few who know better, and although they usually they get away with jumping the crossing, luck is not judgement. So I'm mostly happy with policemen, heart surgeons, accountants, plumbers, electricians and hairdressers etc. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and there are plenty of foolish experts, criminals and misinformed authorities about. We are all responsible. Should chaps who transfer their pensions or take out PPI without reading the small print get their money back?

Be alert. Britain needs Lerts...

Dave

Stuart Munro 127/06/2021 17:41:58
108 forum posts

You could imagine that there is a linkage to the thoughts here - I guess there should be but not perhaps the one I'm alluding to.

Frances and Dave allude to the need for us to understand the principles behind Javascript and HTML, not the detail but the basics. Like the car analogy, I know the principles of how the internal combustion engine works and understand that a microchip (or many of them!) control the variables for me. I don't need to be able to program these myself.

The other theme, expressed clearly by Howard is that we can not expect logical responses from HMRC. I see this as the same thing (now remember that I've confessed to being an accountant so clearly am not fully sane myself). I suggest that when we telephone or contact a person at HMRC, they do not always grasp the principles of tax. Wow, can I be serious? Yes. The 'front line' are unlikely to be qualified. They may never intend being so, its a 9 to 5 job. Ask something standard you get a standard response, ask the extraordinary and you still get the standard response.

I can prove this: Try sending a letter of complaint to any organisation and list more than one issue, if you are lucky the first one gets answered, the second is not even read. So a complex situation elicits a standard reply. HMRC is no different.

Elevate it to someone with experience and logic starts to come through, but its hard to get that elevation.

So my common theme is that we all have so much complexity in out lives that we don't have the tim eor inclination to understand anything deeper than the basic principles. Unless its a passion as engineering seems to be to people on this site!

Stuart Munro 127/06/2021 17:52:48
108 forum posts

Now if you have digested my epistle on the lack of depth of understanding displayed by many people, about their occupation!. Let me introduce you to the changes coming at HMRC ostensibly to reduce your (our) errors. Note that HMRC do not suggest the following is designed to reduce their errors!

We are moving towards all financial transactions that result in taxable income being directly reported to HMRC and tax computed by them We need never worry again. We need never contact HMRC because they will be right without our intervention.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in paying my due. Not just legally due but also morally so. However I like to retain control. But the real reason for this change is to reduce tax avoidance. I wholeheartedly agree with the concept, not the implementation.

Tell the post office sub postmasters that the computer was always right!

duncan webster27/06/2021 18:38:36
3945 forum posts
63 photos

Last time I had to deal with HMRC was after I had retired. I got a phone call asking me to go and do a few days work, which I really didn't want to be bothered with, so I quoted them a very high rate, or at least I thought it was very high, but they accepted immediately. I therefore registered as self employed for the few days, and as soon as it was finished I de-registered. This tuned out to be a mistake. Came time to do tax return I duly filled in the normal self employed form, only to have them return the form and be told that as I had earned more than £80k ( or some figure like that) I had to fill in the long form. Perhaps I shouldn't have written back asking in what branch of mathematics a figure of ~£1k was greater than £80k. They persisted, insisting that if I had worked a full year I would have exceeded £80k (I told you it was a good rate) and threatened me with a fine for not completing my tax return. The long form was full of incomprehensible mumbo jumbo so I rang and asked them to explain. 'That's not our job, get your accountant to do it'. Paying an accountant would have taken nearly all the proceeds, so I persisted and eventually got an advisor who knew what she was talking about to tell me what figures to put in what boxes. At the end of the process HMRC had exactly the same information, no more no less, and I happily paid the tax.

My advice for communicating with HMRC is if at all possible do it in writing, and send every letter 'signed for'. I've had them deny receipt of something before now, it miraculously turned up when I quoted the Post Office receipt, and I have had one 'advisor' knowingly tell me something that simply wasn't true. If you've got it written down they will tend to be more circumspect.

Having said all that, their website is one of the best I've ever come across!

When I tried to fill in a Companies House return without the accountant I came across similar mumbo jumbo, so I rang and asked whether he could explain. Here's the gist of the conversation

Can you explain?
No
Does that mean you don't understand either
Yes
So why am I filling it in?
It's so the shareholders can see what the company is up to
I am the shareholders, who decided this was a good system?
We were advised by a top flight firm of accountants.

So you see it's all Stuart's fault wink

bricky27/06/2021 19:32:01
572 forum posts
68 photos

When in business I paid my tax twice a year.After paying I got a letter from HMRC saying I had underpaid,by 2p I could leave it for six months and they would charge me interest on it.My wife who kept my books wasn't having any of this and posted the 2p in an envelope.We recieved a reciept for the 2p.How much it cost to action this for 2p I have no idea but it was more han 2p.

Frank

Martin Kyte27/06/2021 20:00:41
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2728 forum posts
48 photos

It got even worse when Gordon Brown started using the Tax Office to pay out money in the form of Tax credits and then some months later discovered that there was very little in place to verify identity and detect fraud. Well why would a Tax office have such a system, if someone fraudulently paid them money why would they care. All of a sudden money was going out and was wide open to misuse on a massive scale.

regards Martin

Stuart Munro 128/06/2021 08:10:56
108 forum posts

Duncan,

Of course its my fault. I never practiced as an accountant but used my accounting skills to spot problems in companies...boring stuff so I just accept its my fault. For the last 15 years until my retirement I actually lectured finance to bankers and such so I usually say I was a teacher.

But on a serious note, your problems in having to fill out a full return are all because many of us feel comfortable in 'hiding' income from HMRC. Its simple to pay the guy coming to clean the carpets in cash, the window cleaner etc. This aids them in avoiding Income tax and VAT. The biggest tax fraud of all is VAT avoided through cash payments.

So the intention of HMRC is to catch all those miscreants which means that us honest folks have to comply with more paperwork, oh and by the way pay more tax to cover the tax avoided by others.

Sounds like I'm defending HMRC, I'm not because it is very irritating when they can not see the logic from a layman's viewpoint. We need to explain in their language. Like expecting a non engineer to talk about a morse taper instead of saying the cone shaped piece I stick into the hole.

Samsaranda28/06/2021 09:47:33
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1408 forum posts
5 photos

Peak 4, I can assure you that the HMRC website, accessed through the gov.UK portal, clearly stated that a Northern Ireland Driving Licence was one of three items with which to verify identity, there was no confusion it clearly stated this, no confusion with UK Driving Licence. Dave W

Peter G. Shaw28/06/2021 09:53:47
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1413 forum posts
44 photos

Going back to the original complaint of this thread, ie about NI driving licence etc for identification, over the weekend I have completed this years Self Assessment and submitted it by the same means, eg Government Gateway, that I have been using for a few years now with no problems whatsoever. I haven't had to give D/L information, or NI No. (they already knew it), or indeed any other information.

In fact, due to a combination of putting all our savings & investments in ISA's, having a current account that doesn't pay interest, and a small emergency account that pays minimal interest (just above £8) this years submission was the easiest I have ever done. HMRC already knew my works pension for the year, and for my state pension, all I had to do was take the weekly figure and multiply by 52. Job done. I did have to state the small amount of charitable giving, but that's all.

And yes, I owe 60p!

In respect of Javascript & HTML, my email client, Thunderbird, is set to only display incoming emails as Plain Text, and has been like that for a few years now. I also have email addresses which are mostly something odd, and not that easy to guess. End result is that I get next to no scams/begging emails/Nigerian uncles etc. A good few years ago, I did have a spate of these emails so I set up some messaging rules to get rid of them before they appeared in the inbox.

Being on Linux, although I do now have a Firewall (GUFW), or maybe two 'cos I think there's one in the router, I have had next to no trouble for probably at least 8 years, eg from when I moved over to Linux.

And, just as Stuart says above, I do pay the chimney sweep, window cleaner, hair dresser & others in cash. And why not? It's a darn sight easier for me than having to go through the rigmarole of setting up an account for these people via my bank account, and making sure that it's all correct. I could use one of the three cards I have got, but then it requires me to remember to whom, and how much did I pay, and then to check the bank statement at some point in the future. Yes of course it leaves the field wide open for fiddling, but that's up to the recipient's morality, ie my convenience (selfishly I suppose) comes first.

Funnily enough, I have had two tradesmen who were more than happy to take payment by direct bank transfer. One was a darn good roofer who looked like someone you would cross the street to avoid, whilst the other was a gardener who came twice a month to cut the grass.

Cheers,

Peter G. Shaw

SillyOldDuffer28/06/2021 11:02:42
Moderator
8512 forum posts
1914 photos

Posted by Stuart Munro 1 on 28/06/2021 08:10:56:

...

Sounds like I'm defending HMRC, I'm not because it is very irritating when they can not see the logic from a layman's viewpoint. We need to explain in their language. Like expecting a non engineer to talk about a morse taper instead of saying the cone shaped piece I stick into the hole.

Very true. HMRC is an organisation not an individual.

There's a staff problem. Who HMRC employ is determined in part by pay rates capped by government, often elected by voters who firmly believe civil servants are overpaid. Thus HMRC has a long history of expensively training bright youngsters who leave for well-paid private sector jobs as soon as they are qualified.

Like everyone else, HMRC has attempted to reduce costs by computerising to de-skill jobs. Unfortunately computerisation is extremely difficult because the UK Taxes are amazingly complicated and politicians keep fiddling with them. As Duncan explained, successive governments tend to add new complications rather than get stuck into the major re-think needed to simplify UK taxes. Whatever politicians are good at, it's not managing detail and delivery!

I agree with Stuart's point about adapting to HRMCs language. In any negotiation it pays to understand where the other guy is coming from. HMRC have to keep strict records because there's an appeals process, they have about 35,000,000 tax payers to manage, the system they operate is overcomplicated, large numbers of staff have been lost due to botched savings measures, and not all taxpayers are trustworthy or innocent!

A few good things about HMRC compared with certain foreign equivalents:

  • they admit mistakes and pay money back!
  • Many tax systems require individuals to do all the work; taxpayers have to understand tax law and their liabilities themselves. In this type of system, anyone with other than the simplest liability to tax is advised to pay for an accountant! The collector rigorously checks a proportion of returns and when mistakes that favour the individual are found, the taxpayer is liable to be punished by heavy fines or prison sentence. Bribing the taxman to overlook 'mistakes' is common unless the collector is carefully regulated.

No system is perfect. Not all employees are perfect. There are ups and downs. My advice is to be very careful before dismissing HRMC as rubbish in the absence of a better alternative. Much easier to throw rocks than come up with an effective solution to a difficult problem.

Dave

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