On satirising business in the UK, trying to pay a VAT return to HM Revenue & Customs

Oh Hobbes! Her Majesty the Queen must be so jolly these days! The first waves of the financial tsunami are drowning the young, the old and the sick who don’t know how to or need help to swim. Other waves will come, but she must feel safe surrounded by an army of trained civil servants.

Not that I am proud of, but today I realised that miscommunication within our Very Ltd. corporation had potentially made a mistake with our VAT return (deadline date, 31 December).

I spoke to the other CEO of the company (we are a very prestigious firm, all of our employees are CEOs… well, all of the two of us), and he sent the VAT return but failed to include a cheque for the “Net VAT to be Paid”.

No worries, I rang HM’s Revenue & Customs and enquired what to do in this case. The kind English chap on the phone told me not to worry, that they had already noticed and we could make the payment with debit card over the phone, “just a moment and I’ll put you through”.

I am through, and as I am made aware that “the system is down”, a good old Peter Cook/Dudley More sketch unfolds before me:

THE SYSTEM IS DOWN by Calvin and Unknown African Lady. Literally.

9am in the morning, calvin has noticed a mistake in their last VAT return. They did not include payment for it and after contacting HM Revenue and Customs, he is put through to the collections department.
calvin – Good morning, I would like to pay for a VAT return by debit card. [mild Spanish accent]
HM – Oh! Unfortunately the system is down at the moment. Can you call later on, after 12pm? [strong south Lagos accent]
calvin – It is not the first time this happens to me, and your system seems to be always down.
HM – You can send a cheque if you want.
calvin – I am afraid that it is too late, the payment would not reach you before the end of the month.
HM – Unfortunately the system is not working at the moment. Can you call later on, after 12pm?
calvin – Yes I can, but what information will you need from me when I ring?
HM – Oh! your card details
calvin – Of course you will, but how will you know what company the payment refers too?
HM – I’ve got your details on the screen.
calvin – Yes, you do, now, but I am pretty sure you are going to do other things with that screen until 12pm. See, I’m leaving the office now and I will only have my card on me, what other information will you need so that I can take it along?
HM – Your card number, name, security co…
calvin – …Hold on, hold on, that is obvious, of course you’ll need the card details for the payment, but how will you know what company I’ll be paying for?
HM – Calvin Enterprises Ltd, I’ve got it on the screen.
calvin – Nevermind, I’ll call later.

Moral of the story: Reality always surpasses the best work of top comedians. The dialogue is a real story.



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