OK Computer, NOT

Radiohead’s bizarre piece ‘Fitter, Happier’ from their classic album ‘OK Computer’ speaks to me of disconnection and disaffection in (post) modern living.  As something of a customer service and common decency nut, I get very cross when I stumble over bad service.  I’d like to ‘out’ HM Customs and Excise for appalling behaviour, since I understand that my experience is just the tip of a very big iceberg.  Makes me wanna write a rock song …

The other day, I got a letter from the VAT people, asking me to register my business online.  After doing so and getting rejected after entering my details 5 times I rang the VAT helpline and queued for 10 minutes.  After being told that I had made no mistakes but still the computer would not accept my registration, I politely explained that I would continue to send my money to HMCE by post until such time as their computer system worked, so that they got paid on time.

I was outraged to then be told that this would mean that I would be fined.   Imagine if Amazon fined their customers if their computer systems did not work.  They would be out of business.  HMCE’s behaviour, if reversed into the world of business and customer service, would be properly titled a scam or even fraud.  Put simply by The Beatles:

“If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet”

I may be naïve, but I believe that I run a business to generate income and then expect to pay taxes.  I don’t expect to pay those taxes and then be told I will be fined because Government computer systems do not work.  I don’t complain about people who don’t pay tax, but don’t expect to be treated like this just because I am a soft target.

Has anyone else experienced similar appalling treatment from officials?   Slavish adherence to systems is at the root of many dysfunctional things that go on at work.  Witness the satirical brilliance of Little Britain on the problem we face when we trust computers more than our own intelligence.

For more tax free musings on business and life, mail me for a free copy of “Punk Rock People Management“.  For a VAT free full feature see “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll“.

12 responses to “OK Computer, NOT

  1. Hi Pete. I’d like to nominate their sister organisation the HMRC. I’ve recently been trying to get in touch with them and probably know every option on their phone system now, but once at the point where a human should be answering I just get a long delay with no pick up – record so far for my patience is half an hour. Given that I’m calling an 0845 number to discuss a tax rebate, I feel that they’re clawing it all back! As a suggestion for hold music, they should probably see if Blondie would allow them to use “Hanging on the Telephone”. If they really believe that tax shouldn’t be taxing, they should probably look at resourcing their call centre with appropriate numbers of competent staff.


  2. Ha ha – NOT ! :-)) Yes, it is gaulling and deeply offensive that HMRC don’t have an 0800 number, preferring to leave you ‘hanging on the telephone’ on premium rate 0845.

    Numbers and competence are the watch words. I’m sure they are competent if you ever get through. They are not allowed to answer more tricky questions tho’ so we get the same result.

    Now, write that Blondie song, in the style of George Formby …


  3. I hate customs and excise. I hate paying tax and the whole royal family! What do we actually get for our paying our taxes? Scroungers! Like druggies, foreigners, single mums and the royal family! 😦


  4. A health system that has failed members of my family and I dare say countless of others in the UK. As for education, that seems to be failing a lot of young people too! Don’t get me wrong but health and education are (and should be!) the two main things that our tax should go on, but things like the war in Afghanistan and MP’s expenses seem to be the other things that our tax goes on! 😦


  5. Same problem some years ago where the system hadn’t worked, I had submitted by paper, and was then subsequently fined when THEY, not I had taken months to respond. I just kept protesting and the fine was dropped.


  6. Know your pain. Memory is fading but made a mistake myself. So got fines, somehow I did not realise (maybe my own mistake). So 7 months later get a demand for £800, £100 for the fine and £700 on not paying the fine.

    Not only did they take 7 months to tell me… they said they had… Nope! But also I had paid £800 too much so why didn’t they take the fine out of that. Grrr…

    Don’t let me get me started on Tax Credits and CSA. Not that either affects me but know so many people caught out because the governments systems are so bad.


  7. Someone (anonymous) just posted me this about HMCE:

    Blimey Peter, just tried to make 2nd vat submission – just as hard as last time!!

    Tried to fill the feedback form but it said the drop down option I chose was incorrect format… was it because I chose “totally disagree” to “how is it overall”?

    A nice way of removing any negative feedback!!


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