In public service?

New academic year, new courses and what does your child need? New books, a uniform at the beginning of term. Five forests worth of HMRC sending the same wrong paperwork and a whole term later and we still hadn’t had the decision on the EMA. They speak a bureaucrat’s language that normal people in normal jobs don’t understand but they refuse to talk to each other: Different government departments within departments. I know that at the click of a key the HMRC can view on their screen a chronological list of our earnings anyway, which is all the EMA dept needed to know. The affable but bemusing man in the tax office reeled off my annual  income for the last five years or so. Impressive, Big Brother.

Do they not get frustrated at the impossible convolutions of the system?

And before you accuse me of being unusually dense, the patient and unperturbed lady in the CAB told me that the reason for my visit was the most common problem they have to advise on. I had gone to try and make an appeal not to pay back two and a half thousand pounds suddenly demanded of us after three years of erroneous overpayment of tax credits. oh yes! a low income family easily has two and a half K kicking around. Why did they leave it so long? I went back to HMRC and tried in vain for several more years not to claim tax credits to which we were entitled as there was no way I could tell whether they had got it right and it was much more difficult to manage finances with their fickle input. Most of our friends who had tax credits had similar experiences and my scatty sister was fined a huge sum on top of the repayments they demanded and she and her two small children lived in such hardship for several years.

Oh but now its all on line it should be easy to navigate the system. Have you seen the web site? Isn’t it fascinating? If they realised how utterly boring getting to grips with tax is they would be more realistic about whether people would spend their precious Saturdays browsing their tedious pages and simplify. Have you had your poor old computer sludged up by their successive self assessment CD roms? It’s a full time job keeping up with them and they still obstinately get it wrong. We were due a refund on overpaid taxes and the web-site gives the option of refund or credit on the next bill. Of course, just before Christmas, we opted for the refund. Did they get that right? You bet they didn’t.