the tax office is away from its desk spending your money

logo hm rev & customsHere is a sorry tale of modern day ineptitude.

My twin sons in New York bought their younger brother in England a birthday present. In good faith they mailed it to him at our home address. A considerable amount of time passed, after which we received a letter from Parcelforce Worldwide, informing us that HM Revenue & Customs had raised(?) a VAT charge of £18.44 on my son’s parcel. To this Parcelforce had added a Clearance Fee of £8. Delivery of the parcel was subject(?) to payment of charges totalling £26.44.

And so, a 14 year old boy must save up most of his pocket money for 3 weeks in order to receive his birthday present?

 I spoke to my sons in New York, and confirmed that they had indeed paid Sales Tax at the time of purchase.

I then phoned the local Parcelforce depot, where the parcel was being held. They were unable to speak on behalf of HM Revenue & Customs, but explained that the Parcelforce Clearance Fee itemised in the letter was a standard(?) charge made for collecting and administering the tax levied. I asked them whether, in the event I was able to have the tax refunded, I would also be able to reclaim this clearance fee. They assured me that in that event, HM Revenue & Customs would refund that as well.

I now began calling HM Revenue & Customs. Predictably, they were permanently engaged. After several days of sustained effort, I decided to contact them by the email address indicated in the letter. The next day I received the following response,

Thank you for your email. Curently the
customs4parcelforce@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk facility has been suspended until
further notice. However, you can telephone….etc…

The response went on to outline the 3 options open to us. We could pay the charges, have the parcel delivered, and with the accompanying paperwork, try to claim a refund. We could request a re-assessment by a Customs Officer which would take up to six weeks. Thirdly we could refuse the parcel and ask Parcelforce to return it to the sender.

I have opted for the first and yesterday I paid the charges. I promise not to bore you with the tedious saga of trying to get my money back.

There are a number of issues here that bother me. As far as I understand, Sales Tax in the US and VAT in the UK amount to the same thing. I dont think either country expect this to be paid twice.

It also sheds light on the questionable standards of service on offer by postal authorities both here and in the US.  The US Mail have taken my sons money but have not kept their side of the bargain. At the time of posting, isnt it incumbent on those you are paying, to explain any difficulties there may be in the parcel being delivered?

Finally there is the modus operandi of HM Revenue & Customs. Their tax gathering zeal appears to enable them to collect money that may not in fact be due, and then make reclaiming it time consuming, and difficult. Most of us accept the reality of taxes. As long as one is not trying to evade payment, it is reasonable to expect fair treatment from tax authorities. When there is a righteous query, and they cannot be reached on the phone, and their email facility is suspended indefinitely, they are reneging on their duty as public servants to be available and accountable.

Come on, fellas. Your job is taking our money. At least try and make us feel good about it!

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2 Responses to “the tax office is away from its desk spending your money”

  1. Mike Harmon Says:

    I must say this is a great article i enjoyed reading it keep the good work :)

  2. george Says:

    thanks mike….had a quick look at your site….same back atcha!…keep up the good work

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