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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Nothing is more certain than death and taxes...with taxes having a slight edge

As some of you will know, those of you who bother to read my hugely informative and entertaining posts, I complete the tax returns for my wife's business, her own return and that of her business partner. It's always a fairly hairy process and usually completed towards the end of January.

I had congratulated myself on completing and submitting the aforementioned returns and managing to secure a tax rebate for my wife and her business partner. It was all done and dusted by 21st January.

Then earlier this week I received a chilling e-mail from the business partner. She'd received a letter from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) informing her that as she hadn't submitted her tax return by the deadline of 31st January she had a £100 penalty to pay. She could appeal and a further charge of £10 a day would be levied until the appeal had been dealt with.

I don't know about you, but when I hear something like that I regress. All my cockiness dissipates and I'm full of doubt and guilt. I'm once again that little schoolboy who's been found out cheating at arithmetic.

Did I submit her tax return? I recalled I e-mailed her when I'd done it and attached a copy of the return. I went to my sent box. Sure enough there was the e-mail, with the attached pdf of her tax return (for some reason she hadn't been able to open it). When I opened it my blood ran was completely blank! This was a disaster!!!

But wait, I printed off a hard copy. I opened up the box file where I keep all the tax returns. There was my wife's and the business's....and her business partner's and there was the message confirming that it had been received by HMRC. I took a picture of message and e-mailed it immediately to the partner.

Collective phews all round I can tell you. I slept easy that night - although I recall a dream which centred around my old office and my unsuccessful attempts to try to compete an important return for my boss.

In the morning, however, I had this nagging doubt which I couldn't shift. Something was not quite right. I went back to the box file and brought out the business partner's return. There was something missing which I'd seen the previous day but hadn't consciously registered.

When electronically filing a tax return each page is stamped with a unique reference code. Printing out the return should, I thought, include that code at the bottom of each printed page. That hadn't happened with the return on the desk in front of me. Maybe, despite the evidence of the message from the Revenue confirming receipt of the return that hadn't happened. What if my wife's business partner's return hadn't been received and that was why she was being clobbered with a £100 penalty and £10 a day until it was sorted. Oh gosh, that could take an age, she could have a bill running into hundreds of pounds and it was all my fault.

I was back in my short trousers standing outside the class room waiting for the deputy head to come by and ask why I wasn't in class.

And then in struck me. Of course, since I'd filed the return electronically all I had to do was to go to the log in page on the HMRC website, log in and I could see whether or not the return had been received. After rummaging around another box file I found the piece of paper with the log in details. I can tell you I was almost shaking with fear and anticipation. Logging on would prove positively one way or the other whether I had successfully submitted the tax return.

I had three attempts at keying in the id and personal code, such was my state of high anxiety. I was greeted not by the page I'd expected but by one asking me if I wanted to switch over to the new system  being introduced later in the year for all on line taxpayer. No, I did not, and I clicked through. The first thing I registered was the refund figure of £95, a figure I recognised from the tax return calculation. Then I saw those blessed words "return received on 21st of January." I was vindicated!  The final, there in black and white, proof, on the HMRC's own website...the tax return had been received well in advance of the deadline. I immediately took a screen print of the web page and e-mailed to the business partner. She will attach it to her appeal form.

What a trauma. Typical of the Revenue, not worrying about their customers - torture victims more like. Well, of course, if they can get something wrong they will. I've always said they reduced their staff numbers by far too many,  a false economy. And who suffers, not the mandarins in Whitehall; oh no! The poor downtrodden taxpayers that's who. It's a total disgrace. I've a mind to write to my local MP, except she's too busy trying not to be deselected.

Maybe I'll submit a paper based return next time - less hassle. But, of course, HMRC will do away with that....You just can't win.

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