I should explain. I've never had to do this before. Pay tax, yes - of course. But always PAYE. Until now, the joys of filling in an online tax return have been unknown to me.
It's not just me. Really it isn't. But I seem to have a problem at every stage of the process. First, I couldn't request a UPN as I'd already been issued one. Which was news to me. But it appeared that they had allocated me one (without telling me) the year they were introduced. In spite of the fact that I was paying everything PAYE. Nice of them.
Having cleared that small matter, I registered and got my activation code and activated my account. And then. Nothing. No link, no way of even starting to fill in a self-assessment form. Just a bland message telling me I don't need to pay tax at this time. (Quit while you're ahead, I hear you say. And, believe me, I'm tempted.)
But isn't paying tax part of our civic duty? Well, maybe. But hanging on the phone for hours waiting isn't. This afternoon, in utter desperation at the time it's taking I grabbed the 'online chat' option that popped up with both hands. I couldn't type fast enough (and made a rather embarrassing typo in the process):
I phoned the number he told me to phone. The one he said would enable an advisor to check and 'talk me through the process' (his words). Dead end. The right buttons were pressed, the correct answers given in clear, crisp (and calm) tones the machine-voice understood. And then? Eventually, after much button-pressing and waiting and question answering... go back to the internet, the machine-lady tells me. Or, she suggests, if you've got a DIFFERENT problem, ring a DIFFERENT number.
Ok, well. Mike did say it might be an IT issue. (Actually, I told him that - because it was their IT help people who emailed today to tell me to ring him, but no matter).I dial the number. Press the buttons. Speak nicely to the machine-lady. Listen to that bloody awful jangly music endlessly repeating the same lame phrase and getting nowhere, almost welcoming the frequent interruptions from machine-lady telling me 'just to let you know we have a range of online webinars and videos you might find useful.' A real-time adaptation of War and Peace, perhaps, to keep me amused during the interminable wait?
But no. I'm still waiting.
And it's driving me crazy. Really crazy.
I think I might have to write an old-fashioned letter...