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The other day I had occasion to contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and I did this via a web chat. My query was simply about seeking an explanation regarding tax relief. I compiled my question starting off with ‘good morning, I’ve had my tax code updated and am a little confused.’ I then went on to explain in a few short words where the confusion lay.
The response back was quite familiar, it would be to those that use web chat and quite expected, ‘Thank you for your patience, the next available advisor will be with you shortly. You are 7 in the queue’. Little was I to know at this stage, that my patience was about to be severely tested, not by the waiting time but by the advisor who, to avoid any embarrassment to the real person, we will simply call ‘Jo’. After eight minutes of waiting (not a particularly long time) I was through to Jo and greeted with a request for my details for security.
Once supplied, I was told that Jo would be looking at my record. Jo then responded by telling me that the adjustment in my tax code was due to an underpayment from the 18/19 tax year, explained how much it was and the fact it would be collected through the tax code. Now I should point out, this was not the question I was asking, RTFQ, I wanted to know about an aspect of tax relief and just to add to the confusion, the HMRC website tells me I do not owe any tax from the 18/19 year. The latter makes sense to me because I paid off the amount owed in 19/20. A little agitated I responded with my question again trying to make it a little clearer, as if it wasn’t clear enough. I added to this by asking if my assumptions were perhaps incorrect and if so could Jo tell me when the rules had changed. The response was ‘one moment’. Four minutes later I asked, ‘are you still there?’, the terse response was, ‘yeah, i (sic) am looking through the guidance for you’. This does not bode well!
Trying to be helpful, I responded by explaining the tax relief I received last year, and the fact that I ought to receive it this year, unless of course the rules have changed the response, ‘one moment please’. To be followed by ‘the 480 is from 480.00/40% = 1200 so its at 40%’. Now I’m no Trigger (see Only Fools and Horses) but this mathematical genius has me somewhat perplexed, so I pushed a little further to see if I could get an explanation of this. I ended up with ‘480.00/40% =1200 which is 40% of the 480’.
My patience wearing a little thin now, I asked to speak to a supervisor only to be told there was no supervisor available and ‘They will be telling you the same thing, you can call in to speak to someone else if you want’. So, I can hang up on the web chat, start another and in the lottery of numpties, I will take my chance that I might not get another Jo to answer my query, I think not. To add insult to injury, Jo had just previous to this provided me with an answer that was in fact the basis of my question, we seemed to have gone full circle (RTFQ). In desperation and trying to prevent my blood pressure rising further I tried to draw this to a close by pointing out the problem as I see it, prefixing this with, ‘I’m not trying to be difficult. I just want an explanation as to why …’. I followed this up with, ‘If you cannot answer that, then please just say so’. The response, ‘I have explained to you the best way i (sic) can Stephen’. Now that’s me told! Best not push it further.
I recall first hearing the term RTFQ when I was about to sit a promotion exam. RTFQ the invigilator shouted, before gazing upon my quizzical expression, ‘read the f*** question’ he explained. I frequently remind my students of this mantra before they sit exams, it is one that serves us well, not just at university when sitting exams or completing assignments, but in life. Although I’m not sure that RTFQ is something that Jo needs to prioritise whilst tripping through the wonderment of mathematical equations.
Or maybe, just maybe, it is a new tactic by HMRC to limit enquiries. I certainly won’t be calling back in a hurry.
My favourite TV show - I have many. But if I must select just one... Fleabag. I have rewatched several times, I have even read the book (which is more of a script). My favourite place to go - Peak district, I have several favourite spots within, but overall, it's my favourite place. My favourite city - Cambridge. It may be more familiarity than anything else, but it does have a charm. My favourite thing to do in my free time - READ. I have other loves, such as video games and walking. But reading is my everyday pastime. My favourite athlete/sports personality - Hard one for me, as I'm not really into sports. The only sport I follow which may surprise some is body-building! There's an element of obsession, dedication and art that fascinates me. So, I will say Kai Greene - but I'm not sure how many will know who this is. My favourite actor - Tough one, I like most films/TV that has either Bill Hader or Meryl Streep in. My favourite author - Tough one- Can I give 2 - is that cheating? Margaret Atwood & Lucy Clarke My favourite drink - Coca Cola - Full Fat - The good stuff My favourite food - Bangers & Mash My favourite place to eat - Anywhere with good food that I don't have to cook myself! I like people who - Ask Questions. Questions are the stepping-stone before acquiring knowledge. I don’t like it when people - Assume things stay the same. One of my pet peeves is "Well they should have thought of that before X happened". Things change, feelings change, people's finances change. Therefore, we should try withholding judgement and think how circumstances change. My favourite book - This one is hard for me. The academic in me says Paul Willis' Learning to Labour, the book opened my mind and genuinely changed my life. But the child in me and the one who loves to explore... The Secret Garden My favourite book character - This doesn't go in line with my favourite book, but I love the character Charmaine in The Heart Goes Last she's complex but she is also empathetic. My favourite film - Hocus Pocus - More of a sentimental thing of carving pumpkins every year while watching it! My favourite poem - While I am not one much for poetry, I adored Rupi Kaur's poetry book Milk and Honey My favourite artist/band - I have a few, I like The 1975, Alicia Keys, Sam Smith and even some Billie Eilish My favourite song - Not fitting at all to the above - But - It's Can't help falling in Love My favourite art - I didn't actually know the name of it till now as I never really thought about it, but what I used to call 'Crazy Stairs' (apparently actually called Relativity by M.C.Escher). It used to be in my Art room at school, I remember thinking it seemed pointless, then I realised that was probably the point. My favourite person from history - Angela Davis. After I read Women, Race & Class I wanted to explore more – This woman has had a fascinating, challenging, but above all, inspiring life.
… Side note: as I wasn’t asked … Maisie – My dog (pictured) is my favourite…of everything, really. Just look at her, she’s beautiful.