11 Jan 2004
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United Kingdom
Now, some people consider that HMRC are rip-off merchant at the best of times.

I had to complete 2 SA tax returns in April, for 12-13 and 13/14.

I was in hospital at the time but nevertheless, got them sent off, with proof of posting: a tracking number and a signature copied from the on-line entry showing date and time signed for.

Now, I got a bill in July for £200. No mention of what it was for.

I assumed it was for tax owed.

So today I got two letters from HMRC, SA302's (tax calculation letters, one for each tax year).

One said I owed them money, the other said I had a rebate due. Balancing them out, I owe HMRC £80.

But there was no mention of the £200 paid.

So I rang up (be prepared for a long wait - mine was 79 minutes).

It turns out the £200 I paid was for penalties because I returned my TR's late.

So now I have to go through the rigmarole of copying stuff and sending a letter (signed for....) so I can "appeal" a payment that should never have been taken.

Never mind any interest or compensation for my time.

This is the rip-off, though: read the last para of the letter:

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It seems to me that the Tax Office, like high court judges, is accountable to no-one. Everyone else in this country is accountable to someone and is subject to the Law.
For that reason, I can't see how any of us can do anything about their high handed attitude, short of starting a revolution.
Come to think of it, I believe that the unthinkable (a revolution in Britain) might one day happen the way things are going these days.
What you have to remember is that it is people (presumably normal) who decide to do these things.
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Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The unfortunate thing about HMRC is that they work out of numerous offices throughout the country, they also have postal interceptors (Royal Mail Offices that collect all HMRC replies, irrespective of what office they are addressed to) but none of the offices communicate with each other.
The best thing you can do when dealing with HMRC is only deal with them in writing, keep copies and dates of everything you send and be prepared to have to send copies of letters already sent to one office in one part of the country to another office in another part of the country. Do not contact them by phone ! as you will have little or no proof of what was said.
If you so wish you can also state about how inefficient and uncoordinated they are and that they need to communicate between their own offices before sending out threatening letters, or indeed fraudulent claims for amounts owed. This tends to irritate them enough to actually investigate what they are doing and get you a far quicker response.
If suspect that part of the issue will be down to staff turnover. Ideally, each human being would have a human being at HMRC who would be the sole person dealing with him/her and have ongoing background information, such as a working knowledge and "memory". This is sadly not possible, hence the op's predicament and the wasting of everybody's time, money and effort resolving the apparatchik's presumed error.

A few years ago we replaced some windows with UPVC in my London home. We were unaware that the house had recently been placed within a new conservation area and that we had thus made an error (other houses along the road had already had such windows installed as well as aluminium framed windows as well as some ghastly deviations from the original architecture (ironically the worse case being made by a petty little talentless snob who had pushed very hard for the cons area to be put into place), but these had all happened prior to the conservation area designation so were exempt from the council planning permission office's ire). We subsequently dealt with 4 different officers over a 6 month period who each gave us different decisions and time frames, due to staff turnover as each officer left to work elsewhere either here or abroad. The final enforcement notice arrived several months later from someone entirely unheard of before, about two months after we'd reinstated the original single glazed bespoke timber design, with threats of fines, beatings, hanging, drawing and quartering prior to eviction, excommunication and deportation. Oddly enough we never got an apology for their rudeness and error in bureaucracy.
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