Recent experiences have left me wondering if there is any government department that is truly "fit for purpose".
At the end of January, I received notification from HMRC that for the financial year 2010-11 (my first full year of retirement) I had underpaid income tax to the tune of almost £1700.
This I immediately questioned and was eventually advised that the alleged underpayment was due to me donating £12,500 in Gift Aid.
Now I'm a generous man, but my net income for that year was less than £14,000.
I spent a considerable time preparing a spreadsheet showing that I had not donated almost my full income and sent it off, with a covering letter, to HMRC.
About four weeks later I received another communication advising me that, since I had not responded to the first letter, HMRC would proceed to recoup the outstanding amount.
A telephone call was made and some days later I received a return call advising me that HMRC had made a mistake and I did not owe anything.
Two things concern me: first, even if I am caught by a police officer in the act of committing a crime, I am innocent until proved guilty. In the case of HMRC, I am guilty until I go to the trouble of proving myself to be innocent.
Secondly, how many even older people receive such demands and assume that, because it is "the Government", it must be correct and end up paying the amount demanded?
My wife and I have also just returned from France with our touring caravan. On neither the outward nor the return journey did anyone from the UK Border Agency as much as glance in through a window. Indeed, not even the boot of our car was checked.
Of course, it may well be that we were being scanned by sophisticated electronic apparatus.
I didn't notice any porcine aeronauts over the English Channel.
Rev C Brian Ross,
253 Shields Road,
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