HMRC and Tax Credits – What do you know?

Mrs Angry and I have been in a dispute with Her Majesties’ Revenue and Customs for over three years, about tax credits we received between 2007 and 2012.

We received a letter in the post saying that HMRC had been looking through our back files and wanted over £5,500 from us.  We looked at this quite sceptically and wondered where they would get those figures from.  So we wrote back to them asking exactly that.  We got back a letter saying that we owed £2,000 from one year £800 from a second and £3,000 from the third.

We wrote back to them and said “sorry, perhaps we didn’t explain properly in our last letter, we don’t want a breakdown of how much we owe, we want to know how you came to these figures.”  We received back the same breakdown.

As we were getting nowhere with the HMRC we contacted our MP to see if he could do any better.  After lots of correspondence between him and HMRC, he got absolutely nowhere and recommended that we contact The Adjudicator’s Office, whose job it is to act as an intermediary between the public and the tax authorities when there is a dispute.

I have to say right here and now that The Adjudicator’s Office have been incredibly supportive and wrote to HMRC to advise that they were looking into the matter.  So impressed were HMRC with this news that they set debt collectors upon us despite the fact that we kept them informed at all stages and they ignored our letters.

Now the debt collectors were a piece of work.  They wrote to use telling us that we could lose our house, get ourselves bankrupted, get a lien put on our house, get blocked from getting credit, etc., etc.  This is really scary stuff if you are inclined to believe it.  Luckily we are made of sterner stuff and emailed them at the address on their correspondence to tell them so.  Two weeks later we get another letter saying that it’s no good ignoring us, because we are not going away.  We emailed again, and again we received a threatening letter from them, telling us that if we were not going to reply to their correspondence they would take proceedings.  After each threat we were told to phone them on a premium rate telephone number and even worse suggested that we clear the debt with a credit card something that goes directly against Trading Standards guidelines. 

Now we learnt a long time ago, when dealing with HMRC to not trust the phone.  We have tried this and found that The Adjudicator’s Office, when they get a transcript of our telephone conversations with HMRC, find that HMRC cannot find the recordings of the interesting phone calls and furthermore, cannot even get our names right.  So we wrote back to the debt collectors by recorded delivery.  That got their attention.

Finally, after pointing out to them on every occasion that there is no debt as we are currently in discussion with HMRC and The Adjudicator’s office, and after we have reported them to Trading Standards for not following the code of practice, the debt was returned to HMRC.  First victory to us.

Following this, HMRC write to The Adjudicator’s Office, not to explain why they want this money, but to write the debt off.  In the letter from The Adjudicator’s Office they show that HMRC have already clawed back over £1300 and are offering to write off the remaining balance.  A victory, you think?  Not a bar of it.  Think about it.

We are taxpayers of the UK.  We still have not received an answer to our questions.  If we owe this money to the government, then as responsible taxpayers we should pay this, but we want proof that we owe it.  If we don’t owe this money we want the £1300 we’ve already paid to be returned.  Our MP thinks so too and has written to The Adjudicator’s Office to make this point.  He also points out that if the debt is written off, then we will have a black mark on our record as an unrecoverable debt for the rest of our lives.  Finally, what happens to the debt collectors?  If they purchased the debt from HMRC they can sell on the debt if they wish to and we can be chased by other debt collectors.  HMRC refuse to inform us whether the debt was sold or they acted as HMRC’s agent.  After all they cannot be trusted after selling student loans to debt collectors at 18p in the pound.  Again, we are left in limbo by an organisation that refuses to answer any questions. 

What worries me most is that HMRC want the power to plunder business and personal bank accounts to claw back tax, but with no oversight from any court.  Would you trust them to do that diligently?  No, nor me.  With the amount of errors this branch of government makes, I wouldn’t trust them to make a coffee without screwing it up.  Furthermore, it will be “you’re guilty, prove we’re not”, this despite the fact that Legal Aid is being scaled back all the time and most people’s access to law is becoming more and more a distant memory.




Justice in Sweden? Now there’s a laugh.

Found guilty by judges with vested interests, tried in absentia, for doing something that is not illegal.  Once again, the US shows that it is a “democracy” at home and a dictatorship abroad.  So corrupt is the system that even the sick get dragged back.

And people wonder why Julian Assange doesn’t want to be extradited to Sweden?  It’s quite simple, he knows he won’t get a fair trial there.  Here is the evidence.


USA – Home of the extortion racket. Who says Al Capone is dead?

Well, I’m nothing less than astounded by the accusations made against Standard Chartered.  Here they are accused of the most heinous crimes of breaking sanctions against Iran to the tune of $250bn.  Am I the only one that thinks that this is a extortion racket?

Time after time we are seeing this from US governments and their agencies.  They come along with their exaggerated claims and no one calls them on it?  Megaupload anyone?  To hear the FBI and the content industry, Kim Dotcom has robbed them so severely that he could have driven them out of business.  Yet he did exactly what was asked of him when presented with a valid DMCA notice.  What do we have there, government piracy on a massive scale. 

The time has come to do something

We are fast becoming a pawn of the major corporations.  Our democracies are being controlled by the companies with the largest purses that translate into lobbyists.

In the UK we are about to see the latest manifestation of this in the Digital Economy Bill.  This odious piece of proposed legislation will fundamentally undermine our freedoms.  Not only will a few of the guilty be swept up by it, but also a great number of innocent people will be victimised by it.

Those who are tech savvy will hide their identity behind proxies and encrypted tunnels that will keep them one step ahead of the IP hunters employed by the Big Content industry.

The people who will be caught will be those that download the occasional song, or want to catch up on their favourite television programme.  These people will be hounded, vilified and have their power to communicate curtailed.

Those most affected by it will be those that do not download anything; yes that’s right, those that haven’t done anything wrong.  We have seen many examples in other countries, most notably the USA, of people being wrongly accused of downloading copyrighted content.  Luckily, some of them were able to prove their innocence by proving they were dead or had never owned a computer.  Many more were forced to make settlement with the content enforcers, as they could not afford to fight to clear their names.

In this country, this proposed law will presume guilt until proven innocent, the exact reverse of what we have come to hold dear as our democratic right under our legal system.

It is clear that the only thing that Big Content understands is mammon.  It is therefore logical to hit them where it hurts; in the wallet.

I propose therefore that everyone who buys CD, DVD’s, video games, books and attends the cinema stops until the section of the legislation that is linked to the attack on Internet piracy is removed from the bill.

This may not take as long as it may seem.  The content industry is incredibly detailed in the level of its sales.  It will see the first drop as being a “blip”, especially at this time of year and, as we get closer and closer to Christmas they will get increasingly worried as sales continue to flat line.

“Why should I do this?” I hear you say.  The reason is that lobbyists have to be returned to their proper place, at the bottom of the food chain where they belong.  Soon, other lobbyists will see what an easy target the UK government is, then you will get all sorts of absurd and restrictive laws that erode our way of life.  Look at the laws in the US that are generated by lobby groups and see some of the terrible laws they produce that have eroded their freedoms.

If you agree that we must halt this now, email your friends, reference this blog on your websites, Digg this like mad.  The more people we tell, the more people will boycott these purchases.  The more people who boycott, the more pressure the elected and unelected will be under to remove this abhorrent bill.

Voting for change in government no longer works, time to vote with your wallet.  Boycott CD’s, DVD’s, video games, cinemas and books until they change their ways.  If everyone stops buying even one CD or DVD, the message will get through.

Stop buying for a month or two and they will stop the legislation.  Remember, it is you they are attacking and the attackers are the very people who want you to buy their goods.  Would you buy something from someone who was threatening to disconnect your Internet?

Stop buying for six months and the content industry will have to do two things.  One, they will have to find new ways for you, the public, to get their products, i.e. legal downloading.  Two, they will have to lower their prices, because you, the public will be controlling them, not as it is now, the other way round.

So stop buying now and let’s take back what is ours, our right to choose how and when we listen to music, watch a movie or read a book.  They think we are apathetic, let’s prove them wrong.

So, We the British, have been robbed again.

Well, here we go again, our glorious leader has once again conned us.  It was decided that when VAT went down to 15% that we motorists should not get the advantage of this, so they put up fuel duty to stop us running wild with all that extra money.

Fast forward to this week and we find that there is another rise in fuel duty of 2p per litre.  In December VAT will once again rise to 17.5%.  So, do you think they will lower the fuel duty so that we can all return to normal?  Not likely, this government has decided to keep the fuel duty at the same level and pocket the extra.

The environmental groups think this is a wonderful wheeze, a good way to reduce our dependency on cars and force us all onto public transport.  What a laugh.

Where I live, in a small to medium town in Cheshire, the public transport is a joke.  The nearest train station is over a mile away and buses are so rare they should be added to the endangered species list.

You see, the one thing that the politicians don’t seem to understand is that we do not all live in cities, and particularly London, where there are more buses than you can shake a stick at.  Without cars, towns will die.  People will be forced back into cities and we will have the sort of conditions that appeared the last time there was mass migration into the cities during the Industrial Revolution.

Another problem of living in a town is that most of us have to travel a fair distance to get to work.  For those of us working in the IT industry, where 96% of the data processed in this country is done in the South East, this means working away from home during the week and returning home at weekends, having travelled for hours in our cars, because using a train is eye-wateringly expensive.

The fundamental problem is that we are putting the cart before the horse.  Until there is an adequate public transport system for a significant percentage of the population, we will never be able to give up our cars because we have no alternative.  And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about the big projects like the West Coast Main Line, I’m talking about the infrastructure that supports these major lines – the buses.

So, lets start kicking back.  Write to your MP, or better better still, stand as an independent (look here).  The sooner we get people who understand through experience of life instead of failed academics, accountants and lawyers, the better we will all be.

More rubbish from the people who don’t understand the Internet

Well here we go again, our glorious government, under the auspices of its 2nd unelected leader, Lord Mandelson, has decided that they are going to give those naughty p2p people a thorough spanking for downloading all those movies and music.

God, I’m having trouble writing this today as my dog, Angry Pet, is laughing too hard at what I’m writing, as even a Labrador understands the Internet better than our government.

You see, what happened was that Lord Mandelson was having a meal with David Geffen on his yacht, when it appears that David slipped something in Mandy’s Raki (you know what these Hollywood types are like).  The effect must have been something like LSD, as he immediately started seeing purple seas, yellow skies and a way to stop people downloading copyright material, all things that anyone not in a drug-induced trance would immediately realise was impossible.

Perhaps for starters he should look at the way the Swedish government so effectively closed down The Pirate Bay.  That worked so well didn’t it?

Now, lets look at the effective ways of tracking down people who upload copyrighted material to the Net.  You see, this isn’t quite as cut and dried as it may seem.  The extortionists, sorry the RIAA, MPAA, BPI, etc would like you to believe they they use extraordinary forensic methods to track down these misguided souls.  However, the method they use, you can use.  Yes, you can try this at home.

Open your favourite Bittorent client (I’ll use uTorrent) and click on the tab marked Peers after selecting a live torrent.  Now choose one of the peers and make a note of the address, particularly the domain name (one of mine comes from  Right click on this peer and untick Resolve IPs.  Make a note of the numbers there.  Right, if you were a member of MediaSentry, or a similar organisation employed by the racketeers, sorry media distributors, then you get your cosy lawyers to write to the Internet provider to obtain the name and address of whomsoever was using that IP address at the time and date of the infringement.

Sounds cut and dried, doesn’t it?  They should be so lucky.  You see, not everyone uses their own IP address when they download.  I know, I know, how could anyone be so underhand? Well, actually, anyone who knows what they are doing, that’s who.  There are two popular ways; these are spoofing and using a proxy.  Do a search on Google and you’ll soon see what an interesting subject this is – well that is if you are the same sort of mad geek as me, that is.

Now proxies issue their own IP addresses in the normal way, except they are not in the same country as the downloader.  For example, there is a very reasonably priced one in Canada, that my dog tells me is very reliable.  But anyone who can bend over backwards to lick his arse cannot be that discerning, even if he is eating with David Geffen.

The bigger problem is the spoofers, because they use any IP address they can get their hands on and that means yours and mine.  So even if I’ve never heard of torrents or downloading, I could still get a threatening letter in the post.  Of course, if your IP address gets spoofed three times, you won’t be able to read this any more, if they have their way.

This is a brief overview of how bloody stupid this whole idea is and I haven’t even got onto the subject of encryption.  So, if you’re still here reading this, think yourself lucky, but the odds are you won’t stay lucky forever if the current government has its way.

Well done Apple – failed.

We bought the Angry offspring a iPod Nano for Christmas 2008.  When we got it, we had the free engraving so she would feel it was personal.

Well it started going wrong.  Three times out of six, the iPod would lock up and lose all its data.  Basically it was becoming a prize pain in the arse.  Anyway, I felt it had to go back for repair.  Have you ever tried to prise an iPod out of a teenagers hands whilst there is still traces of life left in it (the iPod, not the teenager, let’s make that quite clear.)?  I tell you, I’d prefer to get meat out of an alligators jaws – it would be safer.

Anyway, after I’d put the cattle prod away I took it to the local Apple repair place.  “Ah”, says the man.  Now don’t you always hate that sound?  It automatically means trouble, usually with a capital F.

Ah? says I, in the hope that it would somehow balance the negative karma produced by the first utterance.  But it didn’t work – “If it wasn’t engraved, you’d get it replaced in 24 hours, but engraved items take 7 days.”  A week??? WTF???  He must have seen the sorrowful look on my face at that moment, as he said “Maybe less.”  Now you have to understand that Ms. Angry has a deformation, her hand is locked in a vice-like grip in exactly the shape of a Nano – she is going to look weird walking the streets, talking to herself, with what looks like a Lego characters claw.

It’s now been two weeks since I delivered the Nano into the hands of my nemesis, and there is still no sign of it.  I rang on the eighth day and every day after that, but to no avail.   Evidently it arrived on day seven, but without any engraving, so it had to go back, now I am awaiting a replacement for that.

Evidently, engraved Nano’s have to come direct from the factory in China.  I presume there are no engravers who work in England any  more.  Must be because they don’t want to release their iPods.

So thank you Apple, thank you so bloody. bloody much.