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Ground Control To HMRC

February 26, 2013

Has anyone tried to contact the HMRC recently? Verbally? One human voice to another? It’s a dying art.

I’ve been self employed since 1999. I religiously complete my self assessment each year on time and I’ve never once been late with the two payments in June and December. I’m not sure where my fear of the taxman comes from but it’s akin to the terrible anxiety I used to feel whenever I spotted one of the security guards prowling the aisles in Woolworths. I immediately assumed a look of pure guilt and would find myself looking over my shoulder as I searched the shelves for the latest Rubettes’ album.

I suspected something was amiss when my bill for the second half year’s tax didn’t arrive in December. I phoned HMRC twice: one call took 35 minutes; the other 50 minutes. On neither occassion did I speak to a fellow human. Instead I was passed from one collection of press keypad options to another. So, I wrote to them, asking what has happened to my bill. Probably crossing in the post (I’ve never known HMRC act so speedily), I received a letter two days letter informing me that as I hadn’t submitted my self assessment back in April, I was now liable for a fine. Anticpating a long prison stretch, I immediately wrote back, enclosing my accounts for the previous financial year. And then – nothing.

On 5th January, I received another letter, thanking me fro my letter and notifying me that Mrs Huffer, had contacted the self assessment section and they would be forwarding me a new self assessment form in the post. Mrs Huffer reminded me that I had until just 31st January to return the form or incur a further penalty. Cue another phone call from me (42 minutes – no human) to ask why they don’t assess my tax on the information I’ve provided.

Needless to say, I didn’t hear another word from them until 31st January when the self assessment arrived in the post. It was dated the 17th January. How had it taken over 2 weeks to get to me? I filled it out immediately and had to pay one of Steven’s support worker’s half an hour overtime whilst I flew down to the post office to send it off.

On 4th February, I received a very threatening letter, scolding me for still not returning my self assessment form and reminding me that both my payment of tax and the fine was now overdue. I tossed off a nervy but angry reply. All I wanted was a fucking bill.

On Saturday, 23rd, I received a letter telling me that my tax for the last year had been calculated and quoting the two half yearly figures (very much less than last year!). But no bill. I know it was Saturday but HMRC are meant to be open to 4pm, so I tried to phone them again. 1 hour and 5 minutes later, a female machine said to me: “There’s a lot of people waiting to speak to an agent. Goodbye”.

I’d like to say “goodbye” too but would probably have my fine quadrupled and be made to eat three dozen hard boiled eggs without a drink. Apart from my pen pal, Mrs Huffer, who may or may not exist, I’ve spent over 6 hours trying to speak to someone at HMRC and haven’t had the joy of speaking to a fellow human yet.


From → Personal Stuff

One Comment
  1. I’ve had very similar issues with them although I was eventually priviledged enough to speak to a human. I called them because I’d had the usual doom-laden letter telling me I was late (which I knew) and telling me to get in touch with them urgently if I had any issues. I did, so I did. However, after I had wasted the required hours of my time getting past the multitude of pick-a-number games, and after I had explained in detail what the difficulty was and what my plan was to resolve it, all they had to say boiled down to this: we won’t even look at your case until the returns are submitted. No help in dealing with the issues, no advice, nothing positive at all. Just this. So why ask me to contact them urgently if I had any problems with the returns when this was all they had to tell me? Obviously wasting several hours of my limited time is somehow perceived as helping. Damned if I know how that works.

    So don’t worry if you can’t talk to a human at the HMRC. It seems like a fairly futile exercise anyway.

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