Tax: it doesn’t have to be taxing. But it is
Today, I used the Government Gateway to pay my VAT online for the first time. I believe this will become compulsory from 1 April—April Fools’ Day. The experience wasn’t entirely positive.
There are too many IDs.
I registered my intention to do this by enrolling for the service a few weeks ago. A few days later, a couple of pieces of post popped through my door from the Government Gateway folk. In one, a User ID. In the other, an activation code for the VAT service in one of those PIN-esque styles where you rip off the bit of paper to reveal the code. The former: twelve numerics; the latter: twelve alphanumerics.
On sign-on, I had to give my password. I have no idea when or where I generated this, so I had to answer a few questions about my last VAT submission before my re-issued password was revealed to me. This was a twelve byte alphanumeric, all lowercase. The first half appeared as part of the web page. The second half was sent to me via email. Secure yet annoying.
I then enrolled, I think, for the VAT service. Before doing so, I had to answer a few questions, including:
- Memorable place
- Memorable date
- First school
- Last school
Now get this. None of the above could contain any spaces (although they had minimum and maximum character limits). (Eton wouldn’t be accepted, btw—too short.) Now I will struggle to remember the memorable place, because I chose one that I think is poignant, but it’s one of many. And similarly with dates. There is more than one of great significance in my life. The last two questions were straightforward, but the space embargo will doubtless prompt me to abbreviate in the future where I didn’t today, or else come up with some other whacky way of meeting the crazy rules while not providing the right value. (What did the space do to us that was so bad?)
Finally, I got to do my VAT return, which itself was relatively painless, apart from the deeply hidden guidance about what to do for zero values. (Offline, you write “NONE”. Online, you type “0.00”.)
All in all, painful. It shouldn’t be this hard. Should it?