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:

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?


2 Responses to “Tax: it doesn’t have to be taxing. But it is”

  1. slatfatf on March 19th, 2010 09:10

    There is an interesting history to all this. When I did the original spec for the Gateway I pushed for HMCE as it was then to do VAT in line with the rest of Gateway. I.e. just a user id and password. They opted for certs (then gave up cos they are impossible to use and cost money). So they added these extra questions to bolster the security. Just in case anyone wanted to break into your gateway account and submit your vat return for you. Yer, right.

    But that was not the main crime. The real killer was that my accounts are done on sage. Each quarter sage brings up a vat form for me already filled in and all I had to do was write in the values onto my green paper form and send in with a cheque. And of course print it out with all the supporting calculations for the vat inspector visit every 3 years (they will not work electronically so you have to print it out for them). Now what I will have to do is go onto sage, open a browser window, log in, select the vat return and copy and paste the values from one screen to another.
    What I had relentlessly asked HMCE to do was to allow sage to submit the data directly via the gateway. But no. That would be too useful and customer friendly. They were worried that people would not fill in the correct quarter start and end values. They are not worried that people cannot cope with the massively complicated vat rules and regs, just that they cannot get their quarters right.

    Wake up HMRC and smell the coffee.

  2. Corporation Tax: it shouldn’t have to be taxing : Tangential Ramblings on March 19th, 2010 16:39

    […] a follow-up to my VAT whinge from the weekend, here’s a follow-up whinge relating to Corporation Tax.  Not the […]

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