Taxed to death…

Apparently someone called Romana Machado* once said; “Death and taxes are unsolved engineering problems”… A factor that the British HM Customs and Revenue (HMCR) department are finding out to their cost.

Nearly six million people in the UK have paid the wrong amount of tax. About £2bn was underpaid via the Pay as You Earn (PAYE) system in the past two years, with about 1.4 million people owing an average of £1,500 each. (BBC News)

The problem is ‘their cost’ is actually the taxpayers cost. It’s not all bad news however, it seems that some £1.8bn has also been overpaid and about 4.3 million people will get a rebate. Interesting that as usual, the deficit appears to be in the government’s favour. How is it this is generally the case?

“Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces” (Sir Terry Pratchett OBE)

Anyone who has ever found the government owes them some money usually waits an eternity for their compensation whilst conversely, the government gets snotty and threatens legal action if you are a few days late with what you owe them. How is it we have these dual standards? I can accept that departments such as HMRC, who in many ways are the custodians of the public purse, should actually be diligent in collecting our payments. What I can’t accept is, when the shoe is on the other foot, any invented reason or excuse for incompetency is supposedly sufficient and should be acceptable to the taxpayer.

Given the austere circumstances our country faces at the moment, I understand the even greater need to gather taxes. I can also understand the need to balance the books and for the government to collect payments for outstanding invoices. That is simple business sense however, how succesful would we business owners be if we went to our customers and said; “sorry, it appears I undercharged you, please can you pay me some more?”

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. (Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill KG)

The current situation with HMRC is very reminiscent of the massive failures and examples of incompetence within the Child Support Agency (CSA) and the Family Tax Credit systems. Two major influences on family financial difficulty that are probably, the root cause of more broken marriages and suicides in our society than anyone would wish to count.

The CSA only bothered with the fathers who were easy to get money out of, any more challenging case was put in the too hard to deal with try. Given the actual reason for the massive CSA machine, their level of failure was/is incomprehensible.  The family tax credit system always appeared to have been invented simply to win votes. It purported to support less well off families, paid an allowance on one hand and then spent the remainder of the year clawing back ‘over payments’. More incompetence!

Is it any wonder that our society has such a high level of distrust in much of the public sector machinery? How many businesses could actually survive in their particular market sector, with these levels of incompetence and administrative failure?

I’m aware that some might say, “that’s a bit off coming from an ex public sector worker on a handsome pension”. In answer to that, there is no personality axe to grind, no post discipline sour grapes and, I actually paid 11% of my salary every month towards the pension. It wasn’t ‘free’  or indeed supplied by the taxpayer, as the media usually want you to believe in their latest shock horror exclusive.

The sole reason behind my regular public sector bashing is simply; to highlight the appaling levels of incompetence, maladministration and mismanagement that exists. Factors which are major reasons behind excesive public expenditure and waste.

If we don’t want to be taxed to death, the public sector has to finally get it’s bloody act together. It has to deliver a better service to the public and one which actually presents value for money!

*Possibly Romana Machado Reynolds aka “Mistress Romana” – Software Quality Assurance Engineer, author and ‘hot-blooded capatilst’.

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