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4:15pm on Thursday, 20th September, 2012:

Taxing Times


I filled out my annual tax return today, a whole month before the deadline. Most people in the UK don't have to fill out such forms because the government is so good at extracting tax automatically, but I get payments from outside of the UK that I don't want to be taxed on twice, so I have to fill in a return every year. Of course, ideally I don't want to be taxed on it at all, but it's invariably had a chunk taken out of it before it arrives so I always declare it. Most years I actually get some money back from the Inland Revenue, although occasionally they can hit me with a scary £3,000 bill for some discrepency they identified in a return from 7 years earlier, so I'm always careful to be scrupulous.

I hate filling the form in. I have to try fathom why it is that the form I got saying how much money I was paid by some US company (along with how much extra money went to the US government) bears little relationship to the actual amount on the cheque. I have to fill my overseas income in on one page (on the special foreign income section I'm sent) then repeat it elsewhere — only I never have any idea where. I just write in the comments box at the end that I have no idea where else it should go and someone at the tax office sighs deeply and figures it out for me.

I also get forms from UK companies that omit useful details such as the date or whether or not they already paid tax on it. Sometimes, they have me down as an employee even though all they did was pay my travel expenses. For two years, I was simultaneously employed by Essex, Portsmouth and Teesside universities, all of which sent me a P60 end-of-year document. This would have been OK except there are only two employments in the form, I had to send off for a supplementary form if I wanted to do all three.

Oh well, it's done now so that's a relief. The next worry is whether they'll receive it in the post (they didn't give me a return envelope this time round so I had to write my own, without the magic bar codes on it that will ensure it goes to the right people).

Maybe I'll check out the online submission service again. Last time I tried it, they wanted me to bring proof of my identity to Cardiff, but perhaps things have improved since then.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).