Citizen Stress

On the 18/6/2016 like a good citizen I completed my tax return very early. I did this for a reason — to get continuous tax credits as a self employed person without a hiccup you need to do this — as they will get stopped in December if you fail to do this. I sensibly downloaded a pdf copy.

This year in February I had an e-message to say I had a £100 fine for not completing my tax return. I knew this could not be true as my tax credits had continued.

For the online HMRC system I cannot reply by email or e-message — I have to write and send by post. So I wrote a complaint saying I had completed my tax return — and had a pdf copy. I had another e-message to say my postal contact was being handled and I could expect a reply in early April.

Today in March, HMRC phoned me saying I was at fault. I must have gone all the way in the system except I hadn’t clicked submit. Now I know this was not true as whenever I logged in there was no partially completed result. It was as if I had not made a start. And also my tax credits had been paid.

So I started to login to the HMRC site with their officer on the phone. The HMRC site said ‘chat to an agent’. I explained to the tax official patiently waiting on the phone I wasn’t getting the normal login screen. So I repeated this over and over until about the fourth attempt it went to the normal login screen.

To login I had to get a code sent to a mobile phone. So I walked upstairs with the home phone, to get the code on a mobile. I logged back out back in repeatedly, but not until about the fourth attempt did it it work — each time a new code was sent to a mobile. So it was confusing now having multiple codes on a mobile phone separated each by less than a minute. It required close inspection to work out which one to use. Oddly the list on my mobile was in reverse order — the top one was the first one. I had not expected that. So that added to my confusion and stress.

Finally on logging in to the HMRC site it took me to a 99.9% completed tax return. All ticks down the screen for every section completed — I had to click next about 2 or 3 times. But then the screen logged out, back in again on its own. And I had to click submit again. I said ‘done’.

The patient HMRC officer said — ‘you’ve done it?’ I said ‘yes’. She was obviously surprised expecting me to confess that I had lied about sending it in before. Then she said she’d look again in 3 days — the time it takes for the system to process it — apparently. But that she would drop the £100 fine.

I finally said ‘can I make a suggestion’ — “the system shouldn’t allow a pdf copy to be downloaded unless the tax return is submitted”. Otherwise I could download a wrong pdf version, modify it and then submit a correct version. My wrong pdf record I could use to get a loan, I could say I earned £1m but in my submitted version I could say £1,000.

Government systems seem to be designed to cause citizens stress. As if the system to fine people is more important than having correct tax records. If the government/system wanted completed tax records it should have emailed me/text messaged me repeatedly to complete the tax record. Not wait another 8 months to fine me.

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