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6:12pm on Friday, 11th February, 2011:



I'm doing some consultancy abroad next week (about which, more next week) for which I need a Certificate of Fiscal Residence or I don't get paid. This is to do with ensuring I get taxed and am not laundering money and whatever.

OK, well in the UK the Certificate of Fiscal Residence is now part of a general Certificate of Residence. It used to be that you could apply for a general Certificate of Fiscal Residence that worked in a kind of "to whom it may concern" way, so if you had one you could just send a copy to anyone who needed it. The Certificate of Residence doesn't work that way, though: it applies only on a case-by-case basis. This means that every time you need one, you have to apply for a new one.

OK, so how do you get one?

Well you look on the HMRC web site and it says to contact the tax office that handles your taxes. You don't know what that is, so you call the HMRC number, wait 20 minutes for someone to answer, and then they ask you a bunch of questions to establish who you are before they'll answer your question. Then they tell you where the tax office that handles your taxes is (mine, inexplicably, is in Bootle) and give you the address. This is almost the same address as on your tax return, but with a different post code so it goes to a different department.

Then, you write them a letter giving the same answers to the questions that the HMRC phone people asked, and add the extra information that says exactly what company with what registration number at what address in what country wants the form, and when you are working for them. You post this letter (apparently the Internet has not reached HMRC Bootle) and when it gets to the front of the queue they'll check your details against a slew of databases and if you check out, they post you back a Certificate of Residency valid for the particular company who wanted it.

This takes six weeks.

SIX WEEKS?! I need one for NEXT week! Augh! That's six weeks before the accounts department at the company engaging me will even see my invoice.

According to the HMRC officer on the phone, the process doesn't actually take very long at all, they just have a huge backlog of work to get through.

I wonder by how great a factor the money the government loses from having too few tax employees exceeds the money it would cost to employ more of them?

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).