USELESSA small personal issue that is nevetheless yet again indicative of the way Britain operates….that is, paying by quantity not quality, and spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar.

I’ve just received (yesterday, 21st August) a letter from the UK tax authorities saying I haven’t filled in my tax return and so here’s a bill for £100. It’s dated 30th July…so it took 22days to travel a distance of 750 miles. It says the problem is urgent and the bill must be paid. You see, HMRC without exception sends all letter mail Second Class.

The letter is the third in the series. After the first one, I rang the call centre and said “I haven’t filled in your tax return because I left England in March 2012.” Well they said, fill it in anyway and then we’ll assess what you owe us. I don’t owe you anything, I countered. Fill it in and we’ll see, she repeated.

So I dug it out and filled it in and sent it off. I enclosed a covering letter confirming letters already sent to them showing I’d left the UK to become a French resident in March 2012. Six weeks later I got another demand for £100. I’m still waiting for a response to the tax return plus covering letter.

Over the next month I tried on five occasions to get through to the call centre. Each time, I waited 20 minutes after pressing six options, and then hung up. Investing 1hr 40mins of my valuable time seemed to me a reasonable attempt to clear things up.

Now I get the same letter, same bill, no reference at all to previous correspondence. It said ‘ring this number now’. So I rang it. Nobody there. (Zero information about opening hours, naturally)

It is over three years since I left the UK after selling my property there. The NHS, the DVLC, the social services, the Land Registry, the local authority and a dozen other organisations who rain over us seemed to catch on fairly quickly. But not the HMRC. The HMRC which turns a blind eye to billionaire tax evaders and does grubby deals with multinational Head Office flippers has devoted three lots of paper and postage over three years to chasing me for a hundred knicker I don’t owe them.

A guest staying here some time back is a forensic financial fraud investigator. He has worked with the UK tax authorities on several occasions. He is vituperative about the abysmal quality of HMRC employees from top to bottom.

My experience suggests he’s right, but these are the principal points I’m trying to make:

  1. Like all important government functions designed to communicate information to the citizens who pay their salaries, the HMRC is woefully underfunded in terms of staff numbers and systems, and consists almost entirely of low-quality demotivated staff led by arse-watching donkeys.
  2. When my little contretemps comes to a head (as, just like Vesuvius, one day it must) the realities of the cockup won’t matter a jot: I will have to pay, because no citizens’ watch exists to argue the case in Court. That’s purely for the rich folks who hire expensive lawyers and then take flight to Turkish Cyprus.
  3. Sending letters only Second Class in the age of the internet is a classic bureaucrat’s view of how “to save money”. It’s in the same league as Osborne’s ludicrous ‘cuts’ and IDS’s mean-minded chiselling at our benefits: it’s like urinating in the Gobi desert in an attempt to create a new ocean.
  4. One can deal with these low life on the website, but believe it or not, you have to join the HMRC’s registered users club in order to do it. And this bit you will believe: they don’t impart that information to you until you’re almost halfway through filling in the online tax return.

This isn’t grumpy old man: indeed, one of my main objections to that truly offensive phrase is that it is the first recourse of all those these days who don’t care about the plight of others, or know perfectly well you have a case, but want to shut you up. What I’m doing here is using micro experience (that can easily be quantified on a mass scale) to once again whip off the Seventh Veil to which neoliberal gangsters and their useful idiots cling desperately as push finally comes to shove. My conclusions are:

  • Employers pay peanuts and get disaffected monkeys who reduce efficiency and have no motivation whatsoever to improve productivity. This obviously causal result, astonishingly, baffles neolibs around the world.
  • Ordinary citizens are being asked to give more to the State, take less from the State, and have no appeal against the State, because a vicious mélange of incompetent spending, banking system liabilities and greedy bonus-splurging offshore dwellers have taken all the munneeee unto themselves.

All those outcomes are a direct result of following the insupportable, hare-brained ideas of Milton Friedman, and the equally non-empirical global assertions of Theodore Levitt. Feeding the citizen patient these quack cures has done nothing beyond deliver them divisive societies and a dangerously divided world. These people are the NVEs on our planet, not Jeremy Corbyn.

And as for the HMRC, they can go forth and multiply for their hundred quid: I’m sick of corporatist values buggering me about. It has to start somewhere, and this is as good a place as any.

Yesterday at The Slog: David Cameron is p**sing against the Wind of German history, and he knows it