“ The Inland Revenue is responsible, under the overall direction of Treasury Ministers, for the efficient administration of income tax, tax credits, corporation tax, capital gains tax, petroleum revenue tax, inheritance tax, national insurance contributions „
I'm sure you've all seen the adverts on TV by that superb presenter, Adam Hart-Davis, promoting the completion of your annual Income Tax return using the Inland Revenue's online tax declaration website. His tag line is "Tax doesn't have to be taxing". But, is it true?
I'm one of those unlucky people who are hassled by the IR to complete a tax declaration every year. I don't know why they pick on me. Virtually no one else I know ever has to do this. I suspect that it may be because a few years ago I spotted that they screwed up on my tax calculation and they ended up having to pay me back over £5,000. I think they've been trying to get it back again ever since.
Up until this year I have always submitted my return on the forms that they send you almost the day the previous tax year is over. Of course, it's impossible to complete and return it then. Most of the information you need simply isn't yet available.
So, it becomes a race against time, if you want to get it in before the end of September. Why end of September? Because, if you get your tax return back to them by then, they have to do all the calculations. I reckon, for the money they steal from me every year, they should work for it. OK?
This year September crept up on me and suddenly there was just about no time at all left. So, perhaps it was time to take Adam's advice? At least, as long as I got the tax return completed before the end of January and did it online, I still wouldn't be required to do the calculations myself. The software would do it for me.
So, how do you go about it? Well, first you have to make a visit to the Inland Revenue website - www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk. I've used this site in the past to research information about how to claim allowances to reduce the amount the Tax Inspector pulls out of your wallet. As an information source it's actually very good. Finding your way around is relatively easy and the search facility is pretty good.
The Home Page highlights a panel entitled "do it online"! Have I come to the right website?!?! Ah, the things your can do online include "Child Benefit" and, the one I wanted "Self Assessment".
Clicking on this link takes you to the page where you Login to use the tax declaration service. Of course, before you can Login you have to register. For me, this is where the nightmare started.
You can register using the "normal" Userid and Password approach or, if you are one of those users who have invested in a personal Digital Certificate, you can use that instead. You got one? No, me neither. So, for normal mortals you now enter your full name and your email address.
You also have to provide a password with which you will subsequently log on to the website to do your tax return. However, take care, the password has restrictions. It must be between 8 and 12 characters long, must contain at least one digit and one letter and must NOT contain the word "password"! Be sure you make a note of otherwise you're screwed.
You also have to provide some personal information in order to confirm that you are who you are. The sort of information includes your unique tax reference (it's on your tax form) and your National Health number. Once that's completed, you're registered, well, almost.
What you get back is a randomly generated Userid. Why this is necessary I can't imagine. For most websites, your email address is your Userid, either that or you are prompted to supply one yourself. But no, the Inland Revenue have to create one for you. Of course, it's completely unmemorable. So what do you do? You write it down, the very thing every security expert says you should never do.
You would think that by now just about all the security measures that would be necessary have been taken, but no. There is one final measure that the Inland Revenue require. They send you a confirmation code that you have to enter to confirm your registration.
Now, most "normal" websites email that code to the email address that you advised when registering. Oh no, this is not good enough for the Inland Revenue. They have to mail the code to you by snail-mail. It takes seven (7) days to arrive!!!! What's more, you only have 28 days in which to complete the registration, before the code becomes invalid and you have to start the process all over again.
So, a week later the Confirmation Code arrives. It's another randomly generated code, just like the Userid. Back onto the website, enter the Userid, enter the Password, Password not recognised!!!!!!! Re-enter Password, Password still not recognised. Try a third time and now I'm locked out. @*&!?*@*
Now I have an (unwelcome) opportunity to engage with the Inland Revenue's Help Desk. Getting through is fairly straight-forward and the guy I speak to is sympathetic but about as much use as a chocolate teapot.
He tells me that I have to wait for two hours for the lock-out to expire and then I can try again. He suggests that I may have entered the password incorrectly. I know I didn't because when I registered it I had to do it twice the same. Not only that but I wrote it down (yes, I know you're not supposed to!!!)
He further suggests that I may have entered it in upper/lower case, whatever, the opposite of what I thought I had anyway. So, two hours later, I try again. I try upper case, I try lower case. All I get is locked out again. Back to the Help Line. Can they please email me my password? No, of course they can't; they can post it to me!!!!! That, of course, will take another seven days!!!!!!!
Seven days later, what arrives? Another copy of my Userid. Another copy of my Confirmation Code. No password. Back onto the help Desk. Where's my Password? "We'll send it to you again". Seven more days and what arrives? Another copy of my Userid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By now it's obvious I'm going to get zip help from the Help Desk. The only solution, let the registration expire and try all over again, hoping this time I have better luck. But, by now, of course, I've wasted a whole month.
Well, the second time I had better luck. Same procedure was followed but this time my password WAS accepted as well as the Confirmation Code. Hooray. At last I can actually get down to filing my tax return.
Well, maybe, but then again, maybe not.
It's not until you reach this stage that you discover that the Inland revenue Income Tax website is only capable of enabling you to file a tax return for the very simplest of tax declarations. If you need to fill in anything other than just the basic SA100 Tax Return, you're stuffed. It's clear that, whatever Gordon Brown spent our tax revenue on it certainly wasn't providing a competent Inland Revenue website!
No, if you need also to declare anything like Share Schemes, Foreign Earnings or Capital gains, the Inland Revenue website is just about useless. What you have to do is compile your tax return using a 3rd Party Supplier, "...some of which are free..."!
The link to the list of 3rd Party Suppliers brings you to a page that contains a table of these "agents". However, the table does not indicate which are free and which will charge you a hefty sum for enabling you the honour of paying loads of money to Gordon Brown.
The first one I looked at was Assured Solution Providers Limited's TaxChecker (www.taxchecker.co.uk). For the princely sum of £40 they will help the Chancellor remove even more money from your wallet. I don't think so!!!!
Eventually I came across Digita's TaxCentral (www.taxcentral.co.uk). Here you can declare your basic tax plus also the SA101, SA102, SA103, SA104 & SA105 forms. This is the one I needed and this service is free. I guess that the Inland Revenue must pay them a commission for handling "customers" on their behalf, otherwise, why would they do it for free?
There are currently 17 agents on the list, including such well-known names as Intuit and Sage. I don't know what they are all like as I never got beyond number 3.
So, TaxCentral it is. Transferring to their site enabled me to try to complete the by now much taxing Tax Return, or so I hoped. First, a few formalities. Guess what? You have to register with their website. Guess what you need to do? Yes, that's right, go through the whole rigmarole you had to do in the first place to register with the Inland Revenue site itself!
Actually, it isn't quite as bad as that. TaxCentral doesn't do anything by snail-mail; for this relief much thanks. TaxCentral operates in the 21st century as opposed to the 19th century for the Inland Revenue.
You have to provide a Userid (your email address). Your password is emailed to the email address you provide (Hallelujah). You are advised to change it as soon as you have logged on for the first time. Of course, the registration process requires you to provide all over again all of the information you provided when you registered for the Inland Revenue website (Groan).
However, from that point onwards the actual completion of the tax return is fairly straight-forward although there is little help for the various calculations that have to be done. You are expected to fill in the final figures and so a lot of off-line calculation has to be done to calculate the correct figures.
The website does check your figures and higjlights any errors it believes you have made. You can go back and correct them. The final page presents you with a complete calculation of your tax liability and tells you what you owe or, if you're really lucky, what the Inland Revenue owes you.
At this point you can print your statement, download your statement or file your statement with the Inland Revenue. I wanted to download and file. Tough. It's one or the other. If you download, there is no way of going back and then also filing your return. You have to exit the website then login again and go all the way through to chose the "Filing" option again. Fortunately you don't actually have to fill out the entire declaration again though.
Filing the return requires you to reveal to TaxCentral your Inland Revenue Userid and Password. What sort of security is that then??? Having filed my return I shortly after got an email from the Inland Revenue confirming receipt. However, on logging on subsequently to the Inland Revenue website itself, I was informed that my tax return had not been received! Case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing?
Even now, several days later, the website still boldly declares that it has not received my tax return. Well, I've done my bit, it's now up to them to do theirs. Perhaps the fact that this time they owe me money is why they seem a little reluctant to acknowledge the fact? When will I receive my money I wonder?
So, as an exercise, how has it lived up to expectations? Well, I have to say that my expectations weren't very high, and I wasn't disappointed. Will I file my tax return online next year or go back to a paper? I suspect the latter. Gordon Brown and Adam Hart-Davis have a long way to go before they convince me that "...Tax doesn't have to be taxing".
I received an extraordinary letter from the Inland Revenue today. Extraordinary, in the main, for its opening paragraph. And I quote: You may remember the Chancellor announcing in his Budget speech last April that two new tax credits will be introduced in April 2003. Well, blow me down with a feather I do not actually remember. I can recall some muttering about changes to Working Families Tax Credit and Childrens Tax Credit. But two new ones? Well, it seems what I thought were minor changes are in fact the replacement of the two tax credits I thought we were referring to with two new ones ?. that appear to be exactly the same! To be fair, I do the Chancellor down. The new versions actually widen the availability of assistance through the tax credit system a little, pay the credits directly in to your bank account and remove your employer from involvement in making payments. As a little bit of a cynic, if you used to get Married Persons Allowance and MIRAS tax relief on your mortgage, you will remember he abolished these. Well, for some he is now giving you that lost money back in the form of a state benefit (although Gordon insists it is a tax credit). So, what happens if you are already claiming the old two tax credits? Well, they will automatically stop at the end of this tax year and your tax code will be adjusted for the worse. You should also get a lovely form through the post from them, 12 pages long no less, that you and any partner you have need to fill in to claim one or both of the new benefits. Now, if you are working, earning a pittance, and have to arrange care for two children, the new system will pay you £13,780 a year to help with the costs of living. A mere mortal like me who earns around the national average wage and has the temerity to pack Mrs Opinions4u off to work (arranging working patterns that ensure the kids are cared for but we never actually see each o
ther) get the grand sum of £545 a year. In other words, whatever your circumstances, it is probably worth filling the form in and claiming what is due to you. I do have to question the need to ask certain things on the form. Surely, the Inland Revenue know how much I earned last year? My employer told them! But, they need to know again. Every year, they send me a tax coding with my National Insurance Number, Tax Reference and value of benefits in kind. But, for the sake of tax credits, they need to know again. No wonder unemployment is so low these days. The government are employing millions of people in the Inland Revenue to process paperwork for which they already have most of the answers!! Just give me the bloody money! I am puzzled as to the purpose of the Child Tax Credit. It is worth £10.40 a week. Why not pay it with Child Benefit? This could save massive amounts of time and effort processing needless paperwork and while those nasty rich people who earn more than £50,000 a year can also get their hands on it this way (as a tax credit they get reducing value), nappies and crisps cost the same whatever your income bracket! The Working Tax Credit is a cleverer idea. Benefits for those making the effort to work. Rewards for doing something, rather than just staying at home to live off the state. As a concept, I applaud it. As a manager in business, I have had 2 excellent staff members transfer from full time to part time work, simply because they would be significantly better off by earning less and claiming more! The reality is, it needs to be made to work better! Summary? For most of us, we are only getting back what they took off us originally. For the very low earners, it is an excellent incentive to stay in work. If you earn £58,000 or less as a family, fill in the form, however irritating it is, and claim your money. Personally, I do not want to be in receipt of tax credits or
benefits. I would simply prefer a fairer tax system to start with. I am an average earner and as such surely, this nation can ensure I do not have to be subsidised. Charge me less tax and give me no benefits!
I hope that this might be useful to at least one person. I consider our family a working one, my job provides for us and that for us is how we thought things were. We only looked at Working Families Tax Credit to see how far short of qualification we would fall. We were surprised and shocked at the same time, surprised that we qualified and shocked because it means that the money (wages) coming into our household were not as good as we thought. Now there are two ways of looking at this. One is you fall short of the criteria and do not get any assistance, that being so, it is fair to say that you might just have a reasonable standard of living, in which case nothing ventured nothing gained. The other is you do qualify, although money is tight you have always managed to pay your way, well if you do qualify then take the help offered, after all it is there for you and your family, it will make the bill juggling game a little easier. Here is a short breakdown of what you can get and who qualifies. First as the title suggests it is for families - either couples or lone parents, These families must have at least one child under 16 (or under 19 if in full-time education). One or both partners must work at least 16 hours a week, whether as an employee or a self-employed person. Are resident in the United Kingdom, and entitled to work here Have savings of £8,000 or less (excluding any business assets, the family home and possessions). How much you can get Basic adult credit (only one per household) - £60.00 30-hour credit (if one of you are working over 30 hours per week) - £11.65 A credit for each child as follows- Age: 0 to 15 - £26.45 Age: 16 to 18 - £27.20 Other additional credits Adult enhanced disability credit - £16.25 Disabled child credit - £35.50 Child enhanced disability credit - £46.75 These are the maximum amounts that you can get, they will
be reduced the more you earn, but not pound for pound, they deduct 55% for every pound you earn above £94.40 per week. You can also get help with childcare costs, provided either you are a working lone parent or both parents are working 16hrs a week or more, unless on receives a disability benefit. The childminder cannot be a neighbour or family friend, the guidelines are as follows. A registered childminder, nursery or play scheme An out of hours club on school premises run by a school or a local authority An out of hours scheme run by an approved provider A childcare scheme run on Crown Property The amount you can get will be 70% of the childcare costs up to a maximum of £135.00 for one child and £200.00 for two or more children. The award lasts for six months. Another plus for those in receipt of WFTC is you get assistance with babies formula milk, free dental treatment and free prescriptions. Then you can get help with your council tax bill It also opens you up to apply for a grant for improving the warmth of your house as well as reducing draughts; this is called the warmfront grant. In fact it opens up a whole host of different types of help. The best thing to do is visit, here you will find all the information you need. http://www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/wftc/ Have a look at this well laid out and helpful site. It even has an online calculator so you can get an instant idea of if you might qualify. Give it a go, you have nothing to lose and you just might gain.