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Sunday, 10 July 2005

We Have Ways Of Making You Scream

If I was actually from Mars, things would be easier, I'm sure. I can now see why – in my previous incarnation as a copywriter - I was never employed on a well-paid government job, for I would surely have brought sense and sensibility to an arena positively proud of its utter incomprehensibility. Not following? Welcome to my world. I am attempting to fill in a hideously written Self-Assessment Tax Return Form, which the British Government has demanded I do, or prison. Or something. Well, good luck finding me. Ironically of course, I have no income to pay tax on. But still, must fill in form or prison.

Before I even begin the preliminaries I am instructed to gather round me supplementary pages. It might as well read 'suppositories', for all the joy this brings to my heart. Enclosed with all my taxy forms is a lovely big form which is supposed to help me. Except if I am using the Non-residence suppositories. Then it is officially No Good. Given that I reside in Zambia, (or do I?…) I will surely be taking the NR (jargon alert!) suppositories. The Non-residence suppositories have not been included in My Big Fat Tax Envelope. I must get them from the interweb. I am lucky to have the interweb, there can't be many aid workers living out in the bush that do.

While I am online I see that I can file my assessment by interweb. I am urged to do so, as it will be fast, secure and jolly good all round. I plough my way through the details, trying, and failing, to bypass the section for postcode, as we don’t have postcodes in Zambia. I make one up. Then I am told that my high-security access code will be posted to me. Yes, by old post. Not by zippy email-style post. So I must wait another six weeks for that to arrive before I can file online. Raah! Jolly super, how fast and efficient indeed.

I give up and try to find the correct NR forms. They are nowhere to be found. I am lost in the maze at Hampton Court Palace with no kindly guards to rescue me. You would think, on the original form, where it tells me to go get the NR Supps, it would tell me what number these extra papers go by, no? Or would that fall into the 'helpful' category? I scream at my computer screen. For good measure I also scream at a few rats who are attempting to run off with the papers on my desk. The Husband finally manages to find the forms for me using secret magic search tools. The guidance notes are TWELVE PAGES LONG. This is not right. I have a life to be getting on with.

I know you are probably bored already. Imagine how I feel. I have not filled in a single box yet, due to suppository searches. And now, before I can fill in the first bit on the first suppository, I must decipher which one of these I am:

Resident and ordinarily resident, domiciled
Resident and ordinarily resident, not domiciled
Resident but not ordinarily resident, domiciled
Resident but not ordinarily resident, not domiciled
Not resident but ordinarily resident, not domiciled
Not resident and not ordinarily resident, domiciled
Not resident and not ordinarily resident, not domiciled

There seems to be no tickbox for 'Alive, but driven crazy by the Inland Revenue.'

I do the absolutely FORBIDDEN and sneak a peek ahead at the section I have to fill in once I have figured out my residency status. Am I an EEA national? I have no idea. What does this mean? I am an Irish national, who used to live in the UK and a citizen of Europe. What is EEA? Is it same like EU?

I am instructed to fill in my forms in either blue or black ballpoint pen. They will get it in purple crayon if that is what is to hand at the time I actually figure out what I am supposed to write. And like it.

The Inland Revenue state many times all over their forms that they will calculate my tax for me (even though I will pay none). What a great idea. No apples minus no oranges equals no bananas. This is what I am now planning to fill in and return to the Inland Revenue by carrier pidgwidgeon, with spangly stars on for good measure:

I am from Mars. I eat bees. 42. Wibble.

Based on the delicate intricacies of their incomprehensible forms, I feel it is the only response they will understand.