Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Cautionary Tale Of A Fictitious Pension And A Steam Engine


If my blogging activities appear to be curtailed at the moment, blame it on the tax-man. It is that time of the year I hate : only a few days left before the deadline for submitting my tax return on-line. It is not that my tax return is in any way complicated, it is the task of finding the few bits of paper I require and the challenge of somehow entering them into an on-line system that seems almost Kafkaesque in its complexity. 

Two or three years ago, when I first tried to fill my tax form in on-line, I hit on a technical problem. I managed to complete the first part of the section relating to income from pensions without a problem, but the second half of the section required me to list my income from my State Pension. The logical answer to this question is nil as I have not yet reached state pension age. I tried to enter "nil" into the on-line form but a message came up stating "this is an invalid response". Assuming mere letters had confused the system's mathematical brain, I tried entering  "0.00", but again I was told "this is an invalid response". I tried to just ignore the question, but the system would not let me move on to the next section as "your responses to this section are incomplete". Fearing that I might get lost in tax-form limbo, never being able to move on to the next tax year, I was forced to adopt desperate measures, so I eventually entered into the form that I received an annual State Pension of £1.00. The system seemed delighted with this response and allowed me to move on to the next section.

Towards the end of the form, there was a section that allowed you to enter any additional information so I typed in "In Section 4.2 I have said that I receive a pension of £1.00. This is not really true but your system refused to allow my to make a nil entry". Feeling satisfied with myself I pressed "enter" only to be greeted with a message saying "This is not a valid comment". I tried responding with additional phrases such as "This is a very valid comment you ignorant mother-board", but the system refused to accept them, so, in desperate need of closure, I submitted the form without comments.

I then proceeded to forget about things and had no further communications from Mr Taxman until a good few weeks later I received a letter from him saying that I owed 37 pence in unpaid tax. This, obviously, was the tax on my fictitious £1.00 pension. In retrospect, I should have taken the issue up then and written back with the sad tale of my fictitious pension, but I didn't, I had better things to do : I had to watch paint dry, trees grow, or even a game of cricket.

When the time arrived to fill in the form next year I was pleased to see that it had been amended and the "nil" return problem had been overcome. But my 37p unpaid tax bill still remained and with interest it had increased to £2.47p. Last year I tried to send Mr Taxman £5 with a note saying "keep the change", but the Good Lady Wife wouldn't let me in case I made him angry. So we have reached stalemate. If I live long enough, I no doubt will owe everything I own to the Taxman, But it will serve me right for inventing a fictitious pension.

What has this to do with the document at the top of this post you might ask. I found this invoice dating back to 1912 as I searched through a box of papers looking for the necessary documents to fill in this years' tax return. Now I have to confess that I can't remember being paid £6.7s.2d by Messrs Fisher Firth of Marsden. Indeed I can't remember ever being a steam engine maker or, for that matter, being alive in 1912. But having found it, should I enter it into my tax return? But given the long-term implications of my fictitious pension, who knows where that will lead me to.

19 comments:

  1. CB : And then I would be entitled to a tax rebate - I like your thinking.

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  2. Ah, death and taxes. They will always be with us. Lovely piece of ledger ephemera.

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  3. hehe...while it may be fun to mess with the tax man it always bits in the end...so cool you can work on steam engines...err...

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  4. Yes, best not to agitate HMRC. Of course, you may want to see steam coming from their ears!

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  5. Dear Alan,
    I enjoy your posts. 1912.. wow!
    where on earth do you drum up these things anyway? You're something else! Hey, I thought of you this morning with the morning news relating to the royal wedding coming up in 101 days. They said every pub will remain open until 1am. I just wish LadyCat and I were there to celebrate the festivities with you, fine sir! Have a great day, my friend!
    :) Lord Thomas of Wellington

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  6. Love the picture of the bras band in your previous post!!! :)

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  7. On-line forms, they are supposed to make our lives easier but somehow I, too, always run into trouble with them.

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  8. I think Bachelor has something else in mind in his second post, poking for a different kind of band.

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  9. Those online forms are designed either by a sadist or someone with a warped sense of the ridiculous. I am a coward at tax time. My husband does mine for me. You sure are required to have your tax filed early there! We have until April here.

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  10. AB,

    The last time my taxes were done online by a professional who isn't me, something was inadvertently left blank, and I received a dunning letter for $3000.00

    We eventually got sorted...

    Count your blessings!

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  11. Oh what a bad combination - online forms and the tax department - a very bad combination bound to cause much trouble and frustration.
    I have to confess needing to look up 'kafkaesque' - what a wonderful word. Now I just need to think of a sentence to use it myself!

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  12. This spring, the eldest and I had to fill in the online application for his student loan. All I can say is that I am overshadowed with a feeling of impending doom at the thought of having to repeat this process for the youngest.

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  13. Sorry, I am still thinking 2010. That comment should, of course, have read LAST spring!

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  14. Tax time..I am sure that the system will win out in the end...perhaps you will be audited..do they do that over there? I was audited once..it was no fun..they make you feel like a criminal:)

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  15. I really tried, Alan, but all this stuff has me glazing over! My dad was a taxman with Revenue Canada and although he was never the Monty Python-sort of accountant, his work didn't interest me in the slightest!

    Best of luck!

    Kat

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  16. Great piece of memorabilia, Alan!

    Online forms, especially for taxes, are both a blessing and a curse. Most of the time, I cross my fingers, whisper a prayer, and hit the submit button with my eyes closed.

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  17. That does it - I am not hiring you to do my taxes! You might add my cats as dependents and get me in a whole lot of trouble.

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  18. i know what you mean. taxes taxes.. oh dear.. :) good thing my husband is an accountant. No worries for me but I see him for about 4 hours daily on tax season. Sorry, I might be talking with no sense. Too late in here, lol.. Love your blog :)

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