I’ve written before about the palaver of telling the taxman how many peanuts I’ve earned in the past year. It’s the same thing every year: I earn four peanuts and I give him one. How difficult should it be?
Last year, I wasn’t busy in the summer (I’d just lost one of my main ‘clients’); I was busy wondering where the fourth peanut would be coming from. So preoccupied was I that I left it almost too late to fill in my tax return. The sky doesn’t fall in if you don’t do it by 30 September, but you have to calculate the amount of tax due yourself and send the taxman the correct moonay in January – on pain of death, of course. My situation is so simple that I wasn’t unduly worried about missing the deadline. Still, I'd rather let someone else make a mistake, so I sent it back in time by Signed For Recorded Delivery and breathed a sigh of relief. Well, what do you know, no one bothered to sign for it and it sat for ages in Newcastle, in a huge pile of tax returns.
Why Newcastle; don’t you live in Central London, I hear you wonder. Yes, I do, but the tax office that deals with my ‘financial affairs’ is in Newcastle, and it’s called, wait for it, ‘Cornwall and Plymouth Area’. But of course! My tax office used to be in Cornwall (it was ridiculous but at least the name corresponded with the location), but they moved it up north, last year, without telling any of us, so I had a terrible time trying to find out what had happened to my tax return. I attempted to track it with that nifty thing on the Royal Mail website, but it didn’t come up as having arrived anywhere. So, where was it? Was it in Cornwall, where I’d sent it, or was it in its new home in Newcastle? Those two places aren’t exactly next door to each other. After about a million phone calls, it was spotted safely ensconced in Newcastle: they’d been so snowed under with mail that they hadn’t had time to acknowledge receipt.
OK, then, so, this year, I decided to spare myself all that hassle and filled in my tax return well in advance of the deadline. I sent it back on 13 July, again by Signed For Recorded Delivery. Again I didn’t get an acknowledgment and again it didn’t appear on the Royal Mail website. In the end, last week, I thought I would find out, etc. etc. One person told me that it was possible it had arrived and that no one had signed for it or acknowledged it because it was sent back so early. Aaaaargh! You can’t win, can you?
Another thing you cannot do is speak to a person who is actually in the tax office where your file is. I have no fewer than six different telephone numbers for that one office, all of which take me to a call centre.
Why don’t I believe my tax return got lost in the post? Because, as I said, the same thing happened last year, and because I sent two other envelopes by Signed For Recorded Delivery on the same day – one to another address in the UK and one to France – and they both arrived at their destination within a few days. And because I just don’t believe these people. The only envelope I sent on 13 July that didn’t get there was the one addressed to the tax office? Yeah, right!
Since I don’t relish the thought of having to redo it all, I sent a letter to Newcastle a few days ago, by snail mail, asking them to please have a good look and let me know if my tax return was anywhere to be seen.
Have I had an answer to my letter? Did it even get to Newcastle? Is there anyone out there?