When my company first started to trade with EU countries outside the UK, we started to receive EC sales list forms from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. Stupidly, we didn’t really register that we had to do anything apart from the declaration about EU sales on the VAT returns. Eventually we got a letter through telling us we had to pay a £500 civil penalty for failing to submit EC Sales Lists.

OK, stupid us, fair enough. So we paid it. A £500 fine, paid.

We also applied to the HMRC for the facility to submit our EC Sales Lists electronically via their web site, and when this facility eventually came through, we caught up in full with our EC Sales Lists backlog. But not before HMRC had slapped another £1000 of civil penalties on our account.

£1500 of fines for what? Had we evaded tax? No. Had we underpaid? No. Had we defrauded HMRC? No. We had merely failed to fill in a few pieces of red tape.

Let’s put this into perspective. Vodaphone underpaid their VAT by some £7bn. Yes, SEVEN BILLION pounds of underpaid VAT, and that’s perfectly OK with the HMRC. But if a small company fails to fill in a few bureaucratic forms, it’s a £1500 fine. Even after we’ve caught up with the red tape, AND paid the original fine. It’s disgusting.

What’s even worse is that although the entire case is still very much in dispute – at the independent review stage – the HMRC has now sent a debt collection company, Rossendales, after us. This rudely spoken bunch of incompetent heavies can’t even talk to us because whenever we go through their security process, the phone number we give them is apparently different from that given to them by HMRC even though it’s actually our correct telephone number.

So by way of allowing idiots to display their idiocy to the world as indeed they should, here’s the HMRC telling me it’s under review (expected completion 18th November) and Rossendales telling me to pay up within seven days (25th October)…

Rossendales - premature debt collection letter on behalf of HMRC

Rossendales – premature debt collection letter on behalf of HMRC

HM Revenue & Customs - civil penalty appeal review

HM Revenue & Customs – civil penalty appeal review