Today in the Vicarage we had two reminders of how our tax money gets wasted by the government itself and by individuals in our society on behalf of everyone else.
Firstly the Vicar had his PAYE Coding Notice come through from HM Revenue and Customs. This was corrected from the erroneous one we received two weeks ago, which gave palpitations to approximately 7000 Church of England clergy around the country as it almost halved their tax-free allowancee.
I wonder how much money sending out a replacement letter cost? The guesses on the grapevine cite the closure of the specialist clergy tax team as a reason for the error. Whatever the cause, it caused unnecessary stress and extra government-funded work. Not really good enough HMRC.
The other instance was that of a friend, who had spent the morning with a lady from the Benefits office. The friend had been reported for not declaring income from work. Actually, this was voluntary work she’d been doing, for which she received no remuneration. Once she’d explained to the Benefits Agency lady what remuneration meant, the lady was happy with her explanation (which was accompanied by a letter from the folk she was volunteering for) and left.
It seems that someone with a grudge had reported our friend and wanted to cause her inconvenience, rather than just speak to her and ask or even ask the place where she was volunteering. We’re only talking a couple of hours of volunteering a week here, not something that took all her time. Or perhaps the person didn’t bear a grudge, but was concerned. It’s still a great pity that they didn’t feel able to ask directly. The cost to the taxpayer of letters, staff time and form-filling must be sizable. Especially when you multiply this situation around the country. And now our friend thinks that someone is intent on causing her trouble. We have a broken society of broken people taking out their grudges by using government agencies. I don’t know how that can be fixed except by the power of change that is brought by belief and trust in Christ.