Who’s the Bastard in the Black (Bowler Hat)?
Answer: the taxman.
Case before the Tribunal shows the very worst in human nature. I guess we shouldn’t despair when the perpetrator of a crime against human decency happens to be employed by HMRC. Doesn’t stop it from really upsetting me, though.
The case was a late filing penalty for a tax return. The return was 6 months late. The penalty was £2,600.
The victims of this crime were a pair of students who ran a commercial business as part of their course. As it was a supposed to mirror a real-life business, they had to register for self assessment.
They ran the business for one year and made £1,356 profit = £678 each. Now, think what you like about students, but they are entitled to a personal allowance just like the rest of us. They would not have been paying tax on £678 income.
Educated people, they still struggled to get to grips with self assessment and only managed to get their tax return in 6 months after the filing deadline.
Now, I understand that HMRC employs a computer and just a handful of (morally vacant) people. I don’t like it, but then I don’t like overspending by public sector departments, either. So, I learn to live with it. It would be nice if these people ran checks on what this computer is up to, but then it would be nice if my football team was good at football. So, the computer is programmed to fire out penalties, and it does not shirk from that responsibility.
What I can’t understand is that when a student appeals against the penalty explaining that they weren’t really in business, that it was just part of their course and asks a human being to consider the proportionality of the penalty to the profit made, the man under the bowler hat defends his position so strongly that he spends our money going to court to defend the appeal. I know how HMRC work. It really wouldn’t have been difficult for them to have let them off very quietly. It wouldn’t have set a precedent for others to try an duck out of penalties. No-one would have known. What sort of human being goes to court to extort £2,600 filing penalties from a pair of students? Answer: one who shares the same parental qualities as a football referee.
And the lesson that we all must heed from this, is not to get into trouble with HMRC. You can expect more clemency from your average Syrian terror cell.