1 Aug 2000
And so MP's have left Westminster for the Summer Recess. Holiday is a word we avoid, as it implies that the three month break is uninterrupted by the cares of our constituents. But constituents are good enough to write to us, regardless of whether or not the House is sitting, and we try to respond promptly.
I returned home to Hampshire to find a pile of work that I had put on one side for the Recess. The NFU Summer Recess Newsletter; the Government's NHS Plan; the Housing Green Paper; an article by the Constitution Unit - "Coalition Government in the UK; learning from Overseas"; eight parish magazines; and in a brown envelope, unopened since it arrived in April, my Tax Return.
Surely, I hear my readers say, you have an accountant to do that. But no.
During the period of the last Government, I was briefly a Minister at the Treasury responsible, as Financial Secretary, for Inland Revenue. This involved a passing knowledge of taxation matters and, when self-assessment was being introduced, I vowed I would not inflict on my fellow citizens a tax system that I could not cope with myself. I told my Civil Servants I would bring in my papers for a previous tax year, and asked them to clear the tables and bring in the new self-assessment forms.
I would not describe the ninety minutes which it took to complete the form as fun; but then there was little that the Treasury civil servants brought in to occupy me with that was fun. The form was completed; tested for obvious mistakes and declared adequate. I said that we were moving from a paper based society to a digital one, and that the form should be replaced with a disc. They agreed and one was commissioned. I asked whether it might have soothing music on it to accompany the exercise, but they demurred.
And so to this year's return. I have to say that it has got more complicated than the one that Hector and I devised five years go, and the free disc that was my own idea has been discontinued by the People's Party. But I give some free advice to fellow taxpayers. Get the form back by the end of September. Avoid, if you can, filling in the Tax Calculation Guide which calculates how much you owe. This has grown from about 4 pages to over 20. It contains some memorable sentences - "The amount of your capital gains which is then charged to higher rate tax is reduced to the amount that would be charged if only the Appropriate Fraction of the Chargeable Event Gain had been added to your other taxable income."
But the deed is done; the form is winging its way to Cardiff; and I can look forward to my holiday - sorry, Recess.
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Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015