The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Falling out of love with the Taxman

In my 11 or so years as a self-employed freelancer, I've had a pretty good relationship with the Taxman. When I first started out, my local tax office in Cambridge were incredibly helpful. I even had appointments to go through my self-assessment tax forms with a small business advisor there for the first couple of years. And since then, whenever I've phoned with a query or a problem, I've always found them incredibly helpful. Yesterday though, we had our first falling out ...

I'm currently doing some work for a company in Spain. When I went to invoice for the first part of the project, I found out that they needed a form from HMRC to confirm that I'm resident in the UK for tax purposes before I could submit my invoice. I was a bit annoyed that they hadn't mentioned it before, but I'd been through the same process a few years ago and I knew it wasn't too onerous. You have to send a letter to the tax office - no, a phone call or an email won't do! - then you just wait for them to send the relevant document back and forward it on to Spain. Last time, it took a couple of weeks, so when I hadn't heard anything after nearly 3 weeks, I decided yesterday to give them a call to chase it up.

I was on hold for a full 20 minutes before I got to speak to anyone, then answered a barrage of security questions only to be told that there's a 6-week backlog of correspondence and I shouldn't expect to receive a reply until at least 22 July! They couldn't even tell me whether they'd received my letter or not, because apparently that would just make the delays even longer. I was fuming! Why, in this day and age, are we still faffing around with such slow, unreliable paperwork?! Surely things like this could be dealt with online or by email so much more quickly.

I'm now almost at a point of being ready to invoice for the second part of the job, but both invoices are going to have to wait until at least the end of July, if not well into August depending on how quickly the Spanish accounts dept moves. Thus the income I was expecting to get in June and July is going to be delayed until probably September. Grrrr! It's also the only project I've been working on over the past few weeks, so I haven't even got anything coming in from elsewhere to keep me going. Looks like it's going to have to be a really cheap summer!!

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