Daily Archives: October 20, 2008
It’s that time of year again, and I’ve been struggling with HMRC’s idea of a website to fill my tax return. Actually I first went there and did the easy bits several weeks ago, and have returned a couple of times, but doing it out of office hours just left me unable to chase missing information. So today I returned at a time when I expected them to be at work.
In previous years, I’ve found it fairly straightforward. At least, to the extent that everything I had to tell them fell neatly into their defined categories. This year, things were different. Having had a couple of royalty payments from a foreign publisher, I ticked the box for having foreign income. Then I looked around the foreign income section of the tax return, which is where it got difficult. Nothing for royalties! I selected “other” from the box, and it duly displayed a page for “other” foreign income. But that was just some fixed ideas about payments from a foreign trust – nothing remotely relevant there either.
To make it worse, there was no means to contact them. The “ask a question” facility just tells me the service is unavailable – even today during working hours. Some of their help documents are just plain illegible: I guess they’re using some obscure font I don’t have. And finally, the “Contact us” menu option doesn’t get me any contact details, it just logs me out of the service. Aaargh!!!
Finally I found a feedback option, and used it to have a moan and ask the question. I submitted that, and it appeared to work. More usefully, the “thank you, we’ll reply within 48 hours” page actually gave me a phone number. So I phoned it.
The second person I spoke to was able to help. The royalties should be entered under the heading of foreign pensions and benefits(!), and I could just deduct the costs of it (notary’s fee and travel to the US embassy) from the sum I entered. It’s even OK to enter the actual £ sums from my bank statement, rather than give the US$ amounts. Result!
Just waiting to confirm one of the figures before submitting. But it won’t affect the amount payable, since it’s only a savings account with tax paid at source. And here’s the good news. Unlike last year when they decided I owed them a trivial amount, this year I’m due a substantial four-figure tax refund! I was aware there could be a significant adjustment: both WebThing and Sun had overpaid PAYE (my fault, not theirs – stemming from the transition between the two), but I thought tax due on the royalty would offset much of that. So I’m happy to see it’s substantially in my favour. I wonder if they pay interest on it?
Next year I should be due a bigger credit again. But that’s because I’m actively optimising my tax this year.