Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
September 19, 2005
Gordon Brown Ate My Weekend

I filed the self-assessment forms online for Mum, Dad and me this morning. What a palava! Once I have gathered all the papers together, and made my own rough estimate on a spreadsheet, it still takes around an hour per form to file the return.

Our tax system is so unnecessarily complicated and the amounts of money due for refund and to be paid so trivial. Everybody grumbles about tax, but for me its the time spent administering such a small amount that really got to me.

Now for my real rant. I tried to buy my car tax disc from the DVLA web site. It is an example of e-government at its worst. I have already renewed my insurance and MOT, so I sat down at my computer with the documents listed on the web site.

And then the 'fun' began.

First, I entered my car registration incorrectly with an '0' instead of 'O'. My bank account login recognises such a mistake and suggests entering the correct alphabetic or numeric character. The DVLA web site just tells you it doesn't recognise the registration and throws you out.

Next, my insurance renewal wasn't recognised by the system database. Of course, as I am the first owner, the insurance, MOT and tax are all due on the same date, but apparently the database takes longer to catch up with the insurance renewal than the 2 week window in which one is permitted to buy the tax disc (from 15th of the month before it's due, or a 1,000 fine if you're a day late).

Finally, despite having my MOT carried out at a big chain of garages, it turns out that they are not yet issuing compatible electronic MOT certificates, so my online DVLA application was thrown out anyway.

After a frsutrating hour online, I put on my shoes, walked the 10 minutes to the Post Office at St. Andrew's Street, queued and paid for my new tax disc.

When I returned, I filled in the feedback form with the points I've made here. But the freeform text box was limited to 200 characters so it cut off the rest.

As an example box-ticking in e-government it's an excellent example of just how stupid people can be. I wonder what proportion of vehicle owners would be able to make a successful online application using this crazy system?

Posted by nathan at September 19, 2005 10:34 AM

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