The scam known as HMRC online self-assessment
As you know, I love statistics because they never add up and always lie.
Here’s another. It’s from the UK’s ‘let’s go digital’ programme.
The digital strategies set out how departments will redesign or create new online services with the support of the Government Digital Service. The first wave of services to be totally redesigned to serve the user includes driving test bookings, tax returns, and state pension applications. They will be easier and quicker to use, and cheaper to run, saving the taxpayer £1.2bn by 2015. Just last week, a report by the National Audit Office confirmed that government ICT reforms and spending controls saved the taxpayer £316m last year alone.
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It’s a little bit ambiguous. Take tax returns. Are they going to be redesigned, or have they been redesigned? If the former, thank God! If the latter, God help us! and everything else in the statement is clear poppycock. The government’s existing online self-assessment tax returns are a scam designed to collect a stealth tax. Government says, ‘tax needn’t be taxing’; a clear breach of the Trades Description Act designed to lull the taxpayer into a false sense of security. It takes weeks simply to get into the system; then it is full of ambiguity and impossibility; and just when you think you’re getting close it logs you out and makes you start again.
By the time you succeed, you’re past the deadline and facing an automatic fine. Think I’m joking?
Those who miss the midnight Thursday deadline for online tax returns will still be fined £100 even if they have no tax to pay or if they pay all the tax they owe before this date.
Penalties mount up when your tax return is three, six and 12 months late: £10 daily fines if you are three months late, and £300 penalty or 5 per cent of tax due – whichever is higher – if you are six months late.
Last year, the taxman raked in an estimated £1billion from these fines.
Five tips to get that self-assessment form in before midnight
So here’s where the statistics come in. The taxman’s scam earned him £1 billion last year. How is that accounted? Presumably it goes into the Chancellor’s public pocket and not his private pocket – which would mean that it’s £1 billion he doesn’t have to get from overt taxes, which means he’s saved the taxpayer £1 billion even though he took it from the taxpayer in the first place.
But from the Cabinet Office we have learned that “government ICT reforms and spending controls saved the taxpayer £316m last year alone.” What happened to the other £684m from the self-assessment scam alone? The implication has to be that the reforms have cost the taxpayer that amount which is offset by the self-assessment income. OK, I doubt that’s the whole story – but it just confirms what I already know: don’t believe anything government ever says.