Monday, January 22, 2007


This morning I visited yet another bizarre parallel universe. The Inland Revenue reminder letter has a call-centre telephone number (They are probably in Mumbai or Kuala Lumpur). I rang it to ask them how much I owed (as I had not had the usual tax return, only the reimnder letter). Automated system tells me to call my "local IR office".

I check the local IR office number in my phone book. A real person answers. I explain my predicament, and the nice lady at the other end says that, sorry, she can't tell me how much I owe. She knows, but she can't tell me.
Security reasons, she says.

She also points out that I have called the wrong department in the local IR office.
OK, fair enough, says I, then give me the phone number I should have called.
Sorry, can't do that, she says.
Security reasons.

So, I says, let me give you my address so you can get someone to send me a copy of the Tax Return. I've already got your address, says she. Is it 5 Bury Lane (etc), I ask.
I can't tell you, she says.
Security reasons.

Me: BIG SIGH.Then, says I, there is no way I can find out what I owe, although you know what I owe. So I can't meet the deadline of 31 January. So you will fine me for late payment. Is this fair, I ask the nice lady?

Leave it with me, she says. Goodbye, she says.

Later, she calls back, asks for my date of birth and my social security number. I was tempted to refuse to give them - "Security reasons" - but realised I would only be drawn further into the labyrinth. So I tell her the numbers, and she finally tells me how much I owe.

Listen, my beloveds, I am not making this up. It happened just the way I have told it. Anyway, I have written and posted the cheque (to yet a different office), so that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Fidei Defensor, will sleep sound in Her Royal Bed knowing that J Allsop has paid his dues. Not that I have much faith left to be defended.

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