Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bureaucratic bungledom

The tale below from Australia will sound familiar to anyone who has tried to get a large bureaucratic organization to fix something. Yet the Left want to saddle us with ever more bureaucracy! The only explanation which makes sense of such insanity is to say that their carefully-masked hatred of us all trumps the "compassion" that they claim

Last year I had a bizarre brush with the bureaucracy. I got locked in an argument with the taxman, and emerged with a fine for my trouble. Why? Because I had the temerity to tell him he wasn't charging me enough income tax. After I submitted my annual return he sent me an assessment saying I'd made an arithmetic error of $12,012 and enclosing a refund cheque for $3878. Phew. I'd been expecting a bill for $1948. But I knew it was too good to be true. I checked and confirmed there'd been no error in my arithmetic.

I could have let the taxman's mistake ride, but I had a feeling that, should it be discovered, the bureaucrats might find a way to blame it on me. In my position, I couldn't risk that. Or maybe it was just the pedant in me. Anyhow, I sat straight down and wrote to the taxman, explaining (wrongly, as it turned out) how I imagined the mix-up had occurred and asking for the $12,012 to be added back to my taxable income. Naturally, since the refunded money didn't belong to me, I didn't bank the cheque.

I heard nothing for almost three months. Then, on the very day I'd posted another letter reminding the taxman I'd had no response to the first one, I got a call from a woman in the Tax Office. From memory, she was in Brisbane. She called to tell me my letter made no sense and that the refund was correct. A furious argument ensued, with me insisting that, far from the taxman owing me money, I owed him.

I asked if she had my return in front of her. No, its content had been entered into the computer and it wasn't available. We argued back and forth until she asked if I'd claimed a $12,012 deduction for Australian film industry incentives. No, of course I hadn't. Ah. That $12,012 was the total of my supplementary income. Whoever punched my figures into the computer had mistakenly entered it one line down, the line for film industry deductions. So I win the argument and am complimented for my honesty. Leave it with me, I'll get it fixed.

I hear nothing for more than two months, when I get another phone call from another woman in the Tax Office. This one was in Parramatta (by now I'm keeping notes of conversations). She was just calling to say my letter made no sense and that the refund was correct. Another furious argument, but this time shorter as I produce my trump card: contrary to what you see before you, I made no claim for a film industry deduction. Another win. I explain that, since I knew I wasn't entitled to the refund, I hadn't banked the cheque. Oh. Then would I mind sending the cheque back to her? Really? Why? It's the Tax Office's cheque, so all you have to do is cancel it.

She was doubtful. Cheque cancelling wasn't done by her section. But she agreed to cancel it and issue a new assessment. At least she got on with it. Within a week I received an amended assessment giving me 26 days to pay $6028. Huh? Well, there's the $1948 I always owed them, plus the $3878 refund I wasn't entitled to, plus $202 as a "shortfall interest charge". The ungrateful blighters. They'd charged me interest for having the use of their money when I hadn't banked their cheque.

I fully intended to stand on my dig, paying the money I owed but refusing to repay a refund I hadn't actually received and certainly refusing to pay what amounted to a fine for being honest. But that would have required another carefully worded letter, and time got away from me. So I banked the cheque and waited (just to make sure they hadn't cancelled it after all), then paid up.


Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your handy-dandy summary of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH

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