Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – Tax, NI, overpayment and underpayments

Every year I deal with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs I realise that half the frustration is caused by internal problems within HMR&C. The excuse given usually is that different departments can’t talk or share information with each other.

Getting money out of HMR&C is like getting blood out of the proverbial stone and can take years. Currently they state regarding the money they owe me “Your repayment request will be processed as soon as possible. ” . Sadly that’s been the way it’s been for the last few tax years.

In 2004 I was owed over £1000! It took a few years before they paid it back (along with a number of denials in the meantime that I should have it). It’s probably far quicker to take them to court!

I really don’t understand why they seem to take bureaucracy to the nth degree and not be able to show some common sense. I do remember Wirral Council owing me some small amount of Council Tax one year, about £5. They refused to pay it back; their excuse was I couldn’t have it back now they’d ended their financial year. I don’t mind too much with such amounts. I did however question the sense in Wirral Council one year sending me about a dozen different council tax demands; it must’ve cost them a bit in postage and printing! I suppose however I shouldn’t moan and most people who are self-employed have gripes with HMR&C. No system is perfect.

For people who are employed (or even self-employed and employed) it can be even worse. For 2009-2010 £1.8 billion was overpaid by 4.3 million people (an average of £418/year each). For small amounts most people can’t be bothered dealing with forms, bureaucracy and government systems seemingly designed to frustrate, confuse and bamboozle in equal measures.

My grandmother used to pay an accountant each year about £80-£100 to claim back about £400-£500 worth of tax overpaid. People on low incomes and minimum wage jobs can’t afford the fees that professionals charge and ultimately end up being hit in the pocket because of a system that is complex, hard to understand and confusing.

It is the system of underpayment of tax and overpayment of tax credits that is more worrying. Both seem designed to deter low-paid people from working. I hope with the new government’s plans for Universal Credit that:-

a) money will be saved by making the system clearer, simpler and easier to understand
b) people will finally get the message that working pays rather than being stuck in the benefits trap created by Labour.

Reasons to vote Liberal Democrat in Bidston & St. James on May 5th – Day Two

There are four choices you face in Bidston & St. James on May 5th. Your choices are Lib Dem, Labour, Conservative or UKIP. I will be voting for the Liberal Democrats.

UKIP came 5th last year with just over 3% of the vote. They are on course for coming last this time. The Tories didn’t even manage 11%.

Last year 78% of people either voted Lib Dem or Labour. Under our first past the post system if you vote Conservative or UKIP your vote won’t count but just help Labour to get elected.

In 2007 Labour’s candidate Harry Smith got elected with 1,384 votes. Last year the Lib Dems got 699. Only ~7% of voters will decide the result.

If you vote Liberal Democrat on May 5th:-

a) if you voted Green or BNP last time, voting Lib Dem will force Labour to work harder.
b) if you voted Labour last time but Lib Dem this time it will reduce Labour’s majority by 2.
c) if you voted Lib Dem last time, thank you but we need you to vote Lib Dem again.
d) if you voted Conservative last time, Lib Dems work with the Conservative Party and a vote for the Conservative candidate will just result in Labour being elected.
e) if you voted UKIP last time, a vote for the UKIP candidate will just help Labour. Please consider voting Lib Dem.

Under our first past the post system, the winning candidate only needs about 39% to win.

Postal voters should be getting their vote in the next fortnight, please let me know if you don’t receive yours and I will do my best to help. Last year, like many residents I didn’t receive my postal vote and had to be given two postal votes (local and General) on polling day. I hope this year things will run smoother.

HMRC – Self Assessment back up

Following yesterday’s story about HMRC’s website for completing your tax return not working I emailed a government minister and my MP.

This morning it is working and I got to complete the sections on my self-employment income. However government owned banks want a week before they can tell me how much interest I’ve earned (and any tax paid). When will banks start providing a speedier service? I suppose when you’re in a business that can’t fail and the banks are so big people don’t have real choice there’s not much of an incentive to improve things is there?

I had a positive chat with someone working at the local nursing home, Birkenhead Court & Grange. I’d last been there playing in a carol concert organised by St. James church. It provides 30 places for elderly people with dementia and 30 places for 24hr residential care. I remember the place being built as the local residents complained about all the large lorries going down the quiet residential roads!

As the population gets older sadly more dementia beds are required. I am glad that the Lib Dem/Tory administration at Wirral Council care enough about the elderly to fund their care in such places.