Friday, 7 August 2009


Had a bit of a nasty shock last weekend, when I received an unexpected demand for £1742.12 from HM Revenue and Customs, which they claim is for overpaid Working Tax Credits. I'm being threatened with possible legal action and everything.

Here's the twist: I have never claimed or received tax credits of any kind in my entire life. Not once. Not ever. I had to look up on the HMRC website what the damn things even are, and it turns out I don't qualify for them in the first place. Fucking ridiculous.

I rang the dispute number in the letter, got ejected from their queuing system a couple of times, then spent fifteen minutes or so on hold before talking to a very nice lady who couldn't help me in any practical way. Eventually, she gave me a second number to contact their overpayment office, leading to several more ejections from their queuing system and another five-to-ten minutes on hold (all 0845 numbers, of course). This time, the nice lady I spoke to ran into the kind of logical paradox that shorts out lady robots' heads in old Star Trek episodes. In order to ascertain my identity, she had to run me through a couple of security questions. The final question was "how are your tax credits paid to you?"

Think about that one for a second.

Since I have never claimed or received tax credits of any kind, I was unable to confirm my identity sufficiently for the lady to discuss the error under which I have been charged £1742.12 in overpayment of tax credits I have never claimed! I'm suddenly starring in a fucking remake of Brazil!

After batting this philosophical conundrum around between us for a while, the helpful-but-unable-to-help lady offered me the physical address of a mythical "head office", to which I had to write a snail-mail letter (as this super-secret facility has neither phone number nor email address). That's right, there is no human way of contacting the people who can supposedly fix the error in my records except by post.

Naturally enough, I leapt into action and fired off a letter by Special Delivery. Hilariously, the address I had been given was soooo super-secret that the Post Office had no record of it existing, leading the woman printing the Special Delivery sticker to suspect that there was nowhere to deliver the thing. I now wait excitedly to discover where my complaint ended up.

I tried ringing back again on Thursday, and this time the helpful lady (a new one, from the sound of her) said she'd send me out a form to dispute the overpayment charge - something that hadn't occurred to anyone else I'd spoken to. Apparently, I'll be able to explain in this form that I've never claimed tax credits and so couldn't be liable to pay back something I've never received. In the meantime, I still have a demand for immediate payment sitting on my desk, with the looming shadow of "legal proceedings" should I refuse to comply. Supposedly, that form can at least put a freeze on those threats.

So, to lighten the mood while we all wait, here's Dara O'Briain ripping the tits off pseudo-science practitioners and priests:


  1. Only 1700 quid? Amateur :-) When they did it to me some years ago, it was nearly 10 grand (sadly, I did actually owe them that much, due to the incompetence of my accountant). And then I got another bill after last year's tax return, although this time only for a couple of hundred pounds. That's what I truly came to understand the scale of brokenness of our tax system. You see, despite the fact that my sole income had been though PAYE, and that the appropriate amount of tax had been paid by my employer, I was still deemed to own them tax. Apparently, your tax code is only an estimate, based on the benefits in kind from previous years, and if those change, it will be wrong, and you'll end up owing more tax. Sigh.

    Anyway, hope you manage to get it sorted out.

  2. Ten grand? Wow!

    What amazes me is that there really don't seem to be solid procedures to follow when this sort of thing happens. Everyone I spoke to was at a total loss.

    The dominant theory so far appears to be that someone stole my details, although simple incompetence cannot be ruled out. I'm a compulsive document shredder, but I guess that's more a placebo than a serious preventative measure.

  3. Yes, that was back in the days when I was earning serious money (and hence paying serious amounts of tax).


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