June 3rd 2006
The recent news in all the national dailies that the Inland Revenue are wasting more than a Â£1 million pounds in tax credits every year doesnâ€™t come as a surprise to me after a recent telephone conversation I had with another Government department.
The Ministry of Pensions, or whatever name theyâ€™re calling themselves at the moment, sent me a circular telling me that I may be entitled to extra old age pension benefits, giving me a number to call. I rang them, but not with any great hope that the outcome would be beneficial to the Ravenscroft family purse. The woman on the other end told me that I would have to answer various questions and if the answers to the questions were favourable I might qualify.
The questions were what you would expect: Are you a homeowner?; Do you have any income other that your pension; Are you British: et cetera et cetera. In other words questions to which they already knew the answers if theyâ€™d only trouble themselves to look them up. Then, after about ten very boring minutes, when weâ€™d moved from my personal details and onto The Troubleâ€™s, the woman asked: â€œDoes your wife come from another country?â€
â€No,â€ I replied. Then, seeking to inject a little light relief into the proceedings, I said: â€œFrom another planet maybeâ€¦…â€
There was a long pause, then: â€œFrom another planet?â€
Another long pause. â€œBut not from another country?â€
â€Well Iâ€™m not sure. Possibly. Maybe the planet sheâ€™s from is more advanced thanÂ Earth and they donâ€™t have countries, maybe they did have countries at one time but theyâ€™re all one country now â€“ you know, like the European Economic Community but spread worldwide.â€
There was an even longer pause before the woman said: â€œI think weâ€™ll put that question on one side for a while. Come back to it later.
In the event we didnâ€™t go back to it because a few questions and answers later she decided that there wasnâ€™t any point in continuingÂ because taking into considerationÂ the answers Iâ€™d given so far it would be most unlikely if I did indeed qualify for extra pension benefits.
So, with staff off this calibre cluttering up the system is it any wonder that the Inland Revenue are wasting Â£1 billion pounds a year? Iâ€™m surprised it isnâ€™t ten billion.