As of yesterday, I am officially self employed for the first time in my life. This means broadly that I’m responsible for all my own taxes, and PAYE is a concept that effects other people. Today I registered as self employed (I THINK) on the confusing HMRC website – but found that I was totally unable to get a reply on the “Newly self employed helpline”.
In the meantime, I am reapplying for Access to Work which supports employers, and self employed people with the additional costs incurred as a result of their disability. In my case, this might be a contribution to a reader / support worker, or for specialist equipment such as a Braille printer (though I already have one in this case). Access to Work could not have been more helpful. They have all my information already, since they have helpfully funded some support for me in the past – indeed until I left my staff job to go freelance last month. We’ve done the forms and they’re sending them to my home address for me to sign, and to include a Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number so that the application can proceed. As soon as the number is known, support can be provided – but quite understandably, until we know it, we can’t submit the form.
Quite simple you might think – call HMRC, explain the situation and have them send the UTR in the post in the next few days. But nope – not a bit of it. In common with many other people employed by us the honest taxpayer, when I got through to the miserable operator, her responses were abrupt and as if she was a school teacher, and I was a schoolboy wanting to hand in a squashed tomato instead of my homework. Only I’m not a naughty boy, I’m an honest taxpayer who wants to earn money as a self employed person and pay my tax.
The request was quite simple, I would be very grateful for a UTR in the post in the next few days to a week, because without one, I cannot discharge my duties as a self employed journalist since I require access to work support. Assuming this request really was beyond the wit of man, one might expect a degree of understanding, or at least manners – but no, “it’ll take six weeks and that’s all I can tell you”, and “it’s not a quick process” were all I was met with. I explained that without a UTR, I could actually lose my job since I won’t be able to do my job – but “you’ll just have to wait six weeks” was all she would say to me – as if these were the only words she’s learnt, and the only words she’s prepared to parrot.
As it happens, I’m confident that my main place of work will be sympathetic to my predicament – and that I can privately engage support until I get some movement – but I really do need the UTR, and quite clearly I could have lost my job and signed on the dole for all they could care.
How many people are being consigned to the welfare scrap yard due to uncaring and inefficient HMRC workers? I suspect quite a lot. HMRC have always been helpful in the past, so perhaps we can chalk this one up to a snappy miserable old bat – but then again, perhaps we can’t.
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