For years I never thought about income tax. It came off my salary, codes were issued, things remained much the same. I retired, new codes were issued, I still didn't have to think about it. Until I began working in an intermittent, self-employed fashion, and everything seemed to unravel. And strangely enough, I'm not actually referring to the tedious business of filling in an online tax return - though goodness knows it's enough to put me off working any more. But the very act of sending in a couple of returns seems to have done something to upset the tax machine (I believe they use computers to check things nowadays. That figures.)
In September I received two tax codes - apparently on the same SSPA pension. One was the usual code, one was unfamiliar. I phoned to enquire. It transpired that this was in fact an error; someone (something?) had got it into its head that I had two pensions and they were determined to tax the second to within an inch of its worth. They would send me another, correct code and all would be well.
Except that it isn't. Well, I mean. Because by the time they made this discovery - or I made it for them - it was only two days before the deduction was made from my pension, and it was too late to change it. The result was that my latest pension payment is some £600 less than it should be. Today I rang again, just to have the satisfaction of telling someone I was pissed off at this. The scenario I painted was that of the poor pensioner, with Christmas coming ... you get the picture. Were they maybe running a profitable enterprise on the side and calling it a mistake? I ended my litany of complaint with a question. "Don't you think that's iniquitous?" I asked. Long silence. I tried again. "Don't you think that's really bad?" Well yes, allowed the woman at the other end, it was not good but there was nothing she personally could do about it. The money would eventually be repaid, but I would have to do without it in the meantime.
Which of course I knew. I told her it would be really good to contact someone who could do something about it. Like a wee recompense? She didn't know if that would be possible, but she gave me an address. She had no name to give me, as there was no single person who would deal with my case. I observed that this was a pity, as it was always good to have someone to nag by name, and that perhaps a bit of undivided attention on individual cases would avoid some of the errors that abound. She didn't reply.
The call was, of course, recorded for control purposes. The wifie wouldn't be likely to say anything too definite. But I may pursue that address, just for the hell of it. You never know ...