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10:02am on Wednesday, 21st February, 2007:

Please Don't Take It Away


OK, so yesterday I went to take some money out of the cash machine. I saw how much I had in my account, and thought, "that's not right".

I checked my most recent statement, and that was right, but what the cash machine reported to me was wrong. It was wrong somewhat in my favour. In fact, there was more than £6,000 in my account that wasn't supposed to be there. Given how miserable my account normally looks, this was something very difficult not to notice...

My first thought was that perhaps it was another mystery payment from Sweden, but I didn't have an easy way to check. Besides, the amount involved was of a different order of magnitude. Where could it have come from, though?

Hmm, I knew where some of it might have come from: the Inland Revenue. I decided to phone to find out if my windfall was in part due to their belief that I had overpaid my income tax.

Well, it turns out that yes, it had. After a very helpful conversation, we figured out that the University of Essex is using an emergency tax code for me as they haven't been given one by the Inland Revenue. This means that my personal allowance is never taken into account in the Pay As You Earn scheme, and I pay at a higher rate too. All tax code changes are instead sent to the University of Portsmouth, the finance section of which believes that I'm an employee (rather than a hiree — I'm external examiner for their excellent computer games degree), even to the extent that they send me a P60 end-of-year return. There's not a lot of money involved, but apparently they got in first so the Inland Revenue sends Portsmouth the changes to my tax code, not Essex.

Oh, and whoever had done the analysis realised that the same logic applied two years ago when I overpaid, so they added that on, too. £2,274.96+£3,800.58=£6,075.54: mystery solved.

They've made a note of the phone call on my record, so if they later discover that it was a mistake after all and demand their money back with interest, at least I won't go to jail for trying to defraud them...

Referenced by Freewheeling.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).