Thursday 19 January 2012

Filling in the tax form

It’s quicker and easier to complete tasks online, isn’t it? I can shop, renew car tax, shift money around (mostly robbing Peter to pay Paul) read reviews, carry out research, keep in touch, make appointments – the list is almost endless.

In addition, it’s simpler. Yes? Not always.

Barry had to fill in a Self Assessment income tax return. He logged in to the site and began to answer the questions. When he came to the section about pension providers he duly typed in the information whereupon the process came to a halt. ‘Contact us’ or ‘Help’, however it was named, provided a telephone number and he phoned it to join a long, looonnnnnggg queue – I believe it took around half an hour to travel from the bottom of the line to the top. 

That was all right though because he was able to listen to soothing music, interspersed with messages reminding him, ‘You are in a queue.’ When he eventually reached a human and explained the problem, that he had put in the required data and then been ‘frozen’ he was told they knew about the glitch. The information had to be entered with no spaces between the words and if he cared to repeat the exercise all would be well.

Unfortunately, he had been logged out because he had been ‘inactive’ for a long period. When he logged on again he found that all the data had been wiped and he had to start again. I don’t know how many help desks there are at HM Revenue and Customs but much frustration and time would be saved if a note could be inserted on the site to the effect that data should be entered without spaces. No matter that it’s gobbledygook, the computer has been (badly) programmed to read it.

It’s also quite difficult to write without leaving spaces, just as it is to speak without taking breath. Computers are clever beasts but they do take a lot of the blame for mistakes, oversights, errors, losses in data. At least that’s the case with those in public service. ‘It’s a new system,’ ‘the computer’s gone down,’ ‘we’re changing to a new computer system’ are three of the excuses most frequently heard.

Don’t blame the computers – blame the outfits that accept the lowest bids for systems that then don’t work because the people who write the programmes have not been properly briefed.




  1. You comforted me, I see it's the same mess in the UK as in Belgium and we have two lines to queue up : it starts "for Flemish push 1, for French push 2
    etc etc.
    Ireallyhavedifficultiestowritewithout space ! And as always it's the fault of the computer, never of the human who is behind !

  2. Oh, I do hear you. I hate these phone queues that one gets into, no matter what the subject, and by the time one's phone call is addressed one is logged out. Been there, done that, and have cursed out loud. LOL.

  3. I'm really blessed my hubby takes care of all the yucky tax stuff. it just scares me to death. :)

  4. You're right, a simple note on the website or even a short recording on their phone could have saved everyone a lot of time.

    Everyone wants to blame the computers for their errors these days. They have forgotten the mantra of Garbage In/Garbage Out.

  5. It is very frustrating. Youmademelaughwithyourlastline.

  6. Utterly frustrating and incredibly stupid!

    I had no trouble reading your last line when I did it out loud. It must be a cacophony in the tax offices. All the computers talking out loud to understand what the hell people typed ;-)

  7. How massively infuriating. It sums up in one post just why I hate doing things with computers. There are programs I believe which help you through your tax and do all the calculations. T. uses Taxcalc. It still isn't that easy if you ask me but at least you're not wasting time on phones.

    And yes, why on earth couldn't they have a note on the site? You can see that there is no mechanism there for giving proper feedback.


  8. Oh dear, this is too close to home! I have just completed (I hope!) mine. It took several instalments before I reached the denouement. Apart from many other detours, they twice added large sums that I supposedly owed, but for which I could find no basis in fact. It turned out that they were payments due on my student loans!

  9. Wowwhatamess!Ihopecommentsallowforpunctuationmarksevenifspacesaren'tallowed.


  10. Oh! I thought only in France things like that could happen!
    It's the third time I have to enter my curriculum vitae in the site of the job center!!!
    Thanks for sharing;o)

    Hope you are having a happy weekend****

  11. Oh! I was forgetting. You are the only one of my commentors to have mentioned Coué and Coueism;o)
    So maybe in the case mentioned above it would be a good thing to follow his method;o)

  12. What an aggravation. I've had similar things happen and it's no fun at all.

  13. Ugh, my sister ran into something like that filling out stuff for an online course - what should have taken 10 minutes ate up 2 hours of time. Which is why I still do almost everything with pen, paper, and stamp. Slow, yes. Prehistoric? Maybe. Still, I've had far less problems so far, and I dread the day when everything will HAVE to be done online.

  14. That sounds perfectly dreadful, sorry you both had to deal with it.

  15. The patience and time required to do these 'time saving' methods of working drive me crazy. I especially love the ones where the telephone 'help' costs you 90p a minute to stay in the very long queue

  16. It's frustrating when we get bounced from telephone operator to operator with music playing- LOL! If I want to listen to music, wouldn't I play my choice of music?

  17. Yes, clear instructions would have saved everyone a ton of grief! Long phone lineups are a problem in Canada too. Unfortunately.

  18. Oh, eeks! Sometime doing things online is so difficult. Luckily I made it through the tax form with no diffculty... I think. We'll see!

  19. Just say the word TAXES and I'm sweating, pulling my hair and packing my bags until after April.


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