Saturday, 21 July 2007

No More Tax Returns !!

If you read my previous blog, you'll know the battle I had with the Revenue about completing Tax Returns. I didn't want to, they made me. But now, it's all changed - they must have read my blog!!! After them having to pay me tax refunds for two years, I got a letter yesterday saying I won't be required to fill a Tax Return in again........ arrrrr...... I WANT TO...... arrrrr... let me....... arrrr please send me one next year.......

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Anyone for Penguin Pie?

At one time in my chequered career I was employed by the University of Nottingham as a Teaching Fellow. Part of my duties was to act as ambassador for the University in a European consortium of food educationalists. It was good; it meant I got all-expenses paid trips to many European cities. One time, whilst in Belgium, I was nominated to give an impromptu after dinner speech and, as the only current foody news item I could bring to mind was about novel food sources for developing countries. I suggested that we consider Penguin Pie as it had recently been reported that penguins in the Falkland Islands were rolling about on their backs unable to get to their feet. If they were unable to stand, they obviously wouldn’t be able to run away and so would make easy pickings. My audience looked stunned. Was it horror at the thought of eating penguins or were they thinking I’d finally lost the plot! “Why are penguins rolling round on their backs?” one of the delegates asked in amazement. Ah, they hadn’t heard the recent news then? With so much military action taking place round the Falklands, the penguins were toppling over as they looked skyward to follow the paths of low flying planes. It seems they have no sense of balance and quite a high centre of gravity; the penguins that is, not the planes. As the planes flew overhead, the penguins tilted their heads back to follow the flight path, lost their balance and ended up prostrate on the rugged coastline. Today, I see penguins are in the news again (AOL News – June 26, 2007). It seems that giant penguin fossils have been discovered in Peru. These penguins roamed round Peru about 40 million years ago and were over five feet tall. Can you imagine the noise they'd have made as they toppled over whilst watching low flying pterodactyls? :-)

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Have you submitted your Tax Return?

Aha – a misunderstanding. It was November 2006 and the very nice young man on the other end of the telephone was telling me that I would not be sent a Tax Return, it was all a mistake. He was very sorry and I must ignore the letter I’d received telling me I must start filling these damnable, irritating, extremely long forms in. Well, that’s one worry off my mind then.

Think again!!!!

A few weeks later the dreaded weighty envelope dropped through my letterbox and correspondingly raised my blood pressure. I tried in vain, for many weeks, to find out why they had sent it. No one would give me an answer. One very rude young lady told me I didn’t need to know why I’d been sent one, the fact that I had been meant that I was required by law, under penalty of imprisonment, to complete it and send it back. She hung up on me when I tried to communicate with her in language she would understand - words of one syllable.

I was finally told, after many weeks of frustrating phone calls that the wheels had been set in motion because I’d written a book. I was very nearly speechless, especially as seven months earlier I had submitted all my P60s because there was a PAYE tax refund due to me. At that time I was required to sign a form of disclosure to confirm that I’d declared all my income. Knowing all about Back Duty, I had declared on this form that I had written a book, published it POD but expenses were far in excess of sales. Asking if this needed to be declared could I offset the losses against PAYE income? I never received a reply; instead, they sent me a weighty tax refund on my PAYE income.

But back to November 2006. I arrived home from work at 7pm one Friday evening to find yet another communication from the Revenue; telling me that I needed to register my self-employment with the NI Cont people as Class 2 contributions would be due!! I rang the telephone number and was told that I should have registered self-employed as soon as I started writing my book!!!!! That was 20 years ago!!!!! So, a deal was struck. I was to register from the date I had the book published and close “the business” down on the date I made my last sale. I explained I still had about 70 copies gathering dust in my spare room but he said I shouldn’t mention those to anyone. He explained that he would raise an assessment for Class 2 NI contributions and that when I received it I must ring him back and claim Exception on grounds of low income (duurr…NO income). WHAT A WASTE OF EVERYBODY’S TIME – WHY RAISE AN ASSESSMENT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!! Later that evening I rang the Revenue helpline to ask AGAIN (for the n'th time) whether losses on self employment could be set against PAYE income. I was categorically told No, never, no, not under any circumstances. NO!!

Completing the Tax Return was the nearest thing I’ve come in a long time to feeling like my finger nails were being pulled out. It was excruciatingly painful and frustrating. It came accompanied by volumes of instructions that MUST be read before completing the Tax Return. I duly obliged and was glad I did -here it was in plain text. Yes, you can claim s/e losses against PAYE income!!! So, spurred on by the thought of more tax refunds coming my way, I set myself the task of completing the Return over Christmas. Alas it was still lying on the table goading me by the time 2007 arrived. So, on New Years Day I finally decided I’d get this monkey off my back once and for all – so that’s how I spent the first day of 2007. The first question was “What is the name of your business?” Excuse me!!! I don’t have a business. “What is the address of your business?” I DON’T HAVE A BUSINESS!!!! In the evening, exhausted, I went online to submit it. I was perilously close to the deadline and don't have much faith in Snail Mail. The website is frustratingly cluttered and the instructions are not clear for Tax Return virgins. Ah, you have to register first. So I did that only to be informed by annoyingly small type that I had to wait a week to get a pin number through the post before I could submit online. By this time my blood pressure was so high my ears were steaming and the whisky bottle lay empty on the floor. Again I had to retreat, defeated.

For the next five days I ripped open every letter that landed on my doormat. I was desperate to end this awful agony. Finally it arrived and I laboriously transcribed my paper record into electronic format – no the online form IS NOT set out the same as the paper version. Anyway, the computer calculated that I was due a further repayment. With expenses (all supported by receipts but not itemised on the Tax return) far exceeding the book sales I expected to get further communications from them. How wrong I was. Within two days they had credited my bank account with the additional refund. Amazing. They harass me and threaten me for four months, they lie to me and treat me with total disrespect, only to give me money at the end of it all. It sure is a crazy system they operate. Three months later, after a lengthy investigation funded by my money, the Complaints Department assured me that they had reprimanded the girl who had been so rude to me.

Submitting the 2006/2007 Return hasn't been so painful as I had all my paperwork and receipts prepared. Within 2 days of submitting online, my account was credited with yet another refund.

I’m planning to write another book ASAP. This one though, will require a lot of research and will probably involve travel to Mexico and Peru in order to check out my facts.

Looks like there’ll be another big refund next year then :-)