Category Archives: News & Comment

2016 – a year in review

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This review of my year is somewhat coarse and uncouth. I apologise if any of the following language causes offence. I’ve tried to be creative with it rather than write what I really think! It’s just, well, it’s just been one of those years, hasn’t it?

I usually try to find a suitable header image for these reviews. The best idea I came up with was an image of 2016 being flushed down a toilet, just as a big fat hairy arse was pooping 2017 into it. It sort of sums up my feelings. Yes, this year has been a bit of stinker to say the least. 2017, though, is set to be a real honker. An “I’d leave that about 20 minutes before you go in” sort of year. That’s why I’ve put a picture of Billy-puss there instead.

So, 2016. What have you got to say for yourself?

The World

It’s very easy to be a bit of a grump about the state of things, I think. I keep looking for something positive. I’m sure there are one or two diamond chips lurking in the overall shower of shit that was 2016, but I’m buggered if I can spot them.

The new year set the trend with the somewhat unexpected death of David Bowie in January. It seemed to go downhill from there, frankly. When you come to look at it calmly, though, the quantity of celebrity deaths in 2016 isn’t really all that much different to previous years. It just seems worse, I think, because there’s a cohort of actors, musicians and so on, that has reached that kind of age where they will tend to drop of the perch. It becomes more acute when you’ve lived with these people as part of your life, even if only vicariously or tangentially. Their work, of course, lives on.

The Middle East remains an utter mess. As I type this, a final act in Syria is potentially beginning, but I don’t wish to comment in depth. Bombings and shootings in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and whatever you do don’t mention Yemen… No one source of “news” can give a clear picture of the maelstrom, and picking shreds of truth from the endless frothing onslaught is all but impossible. At every turn, claim and counterclaim, and everyone is currently blaming the Russians. Odd, that, since last year it was the Chinese.

We turn to the United States of America… Actually, no, let’s not. They’ve made their bed. We’d have suffered whichever side had claimed the presidency, and we’ve got enough of a pickle of our own to sort out.

The environment seems to be collapsing faster than Sterling against the US dollar. Despite the evidence before their very eyes, unbelievers still insist there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming. I’ve given up. We might just as well give up and let it all crash and burn. Perhaps then they’ll listen, when it’s all too late to do anything. Actually, I think we passed that point about twenty years back, just when we were beginning to realise something was badly amiss. It’s your grandchildren I feel sorry for. I don’t have any kids, so I don’t waste any time worrying about their non-existent futures.

Sheesh! Is there a sane country left on this planet‽ Would you be surprised if I told you I was at the point of applying to emigrate to Iceland? Seriously. The only problem is I wouldn’t have a job there, Best Beloved wouldn’t like the climate, and working as a modelmaker in an overseas territory when my client base is mostly here in the UK would be a bit silly. Oh well, another door slams, as they say. Chalk up another opportunity I failed to grab as it sailed by. The story of my life.

Blighty

Sodding Brexit. Seriously, sod it and all who sail in her. What a fiasco. Even if we end up not leaving the EU—and some polls seem to indicate a sufficient number of leave voters have since changed their minds, such that it could swing that way—something deeply fundamental at the core of the United Kingdom has been utterly broken. Brexit, apparently, means Brexit, whatever the hell that word salad is supposed to mean. Possibly with red, white and blue, but it means Brexit. That’s the level of foresight and planning our inglorious leaders have on the matter. I find it hard to look at anyone these days and trust them with anything. What must it be like for other EU nationals living here, let alone people with deeper skin tones? You know who I blame for it?

The sodding Tories, and especially that moon-faced arse-gibbon David Cameron. Frightened by the UKIP tendency, he called the referendum, failed to make it binding as he fully expected the Remain campaign would win it with ease, then flounced off to his millions when it all went tits up. Arrogant shit, leaving the rest of us in the same. If we could find him, he should be dragged back and his nose rubbed in the mess he’s made!

After a couple of nights of the long knives, Theresa May reached the top of the Conservative Party greasy pole. What’s rather worrying is she’s shown little aptitude for the job, which isn’t altogether surprising as she wasn’t exactly employee of the month in her previous one. I don’t suppose it’ll be long before we get to choose more self-aggrandising wastes of oxygen and space to occupy the crumbling ruin of the Palace of Westminster. The Labour Party weren’t any better, either. Bunch of tossers. A leader is elected with a massive popular mandate, but the MPs don’t like him so they try to run another leadership campaign to oust him. The original leader is returned with an even larger mandate. What the actual blue-faced f@c# did they expect would happen‽ Honestly, what a bunch of moronic no-hopers. Meanwhile, the Tories run rampant, tearing the country to shreds with no real opposition. You couldn’t make this up.

Having decided by the slimmest of margins, of those that actually bothered to vote in the damned EU referendum that is, that the “will of the people” was we should leave the European Union, Mrs May placed Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis in charge. The Three Stooges, only with less intelligence and foresight. God help us all. Oh, I forgot, there is no god. Sorry. Looks like we are on our own.

That other bad smell, Nigel Farage (that’s pronounced as “farridge” round here), simply won’t go away. Having resigned from the Kippers’ leadership, he found himself back in it again almost immediately when the woman elected to run things found white middle-aged blokes don’t like women telling them what to do. Shades of General Election 2015. Now he’s found a properly loony white middle-aged bloke to run things, Farage is off again. Mr Froggy-Would-A-Wooing-Go has recently been crawling up the tailpipe of the Orange One in Trumpland. I wish he’d crawl up there and stay, and good riddance. I wish to no longer see his leering visage on my television screen, thank you.

What a nasty, vicious, small-minded place this once great country has become. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but the pretty wrapping paper covered it up. Who knows. Whatever, it’s a darker place now than it was this time last year, and it was no Blackpool illuminations back then either.

We had some pretty good weather during the summer, so that was nice. The autumn was pretty spectacular, too. I failed to get out my camera gear, though. Another positive note was the release of a new ELO album. The summer was only marred by the old biddie in Buck House turning 90. Woo-bloody-hoo! Oh, and the Rio Olympics. To be fair, Team GB did quite well. Good luck to ’em.

Domestic

At home it’s been a year of ups and downs. On my work front, it’s like it’s never ending. I closed my order book for 2017, and will tentatively take on new commissions for 2018 some time during next year. It’s feels good to be in demand, but my pace of work is painfully slow at times. Still, the bank balance is well into the black, which is a nice place to be.

We said goodbye to our old Sophie-puss in May. Her health had been on a downturn for a while, but bearing in mind she was close to 20 years old, she didn’t do too badly. We went off to be chosen again as soon as we could, and Billy-puss has made himself properly at home now. It’s almost like he was meant to be here.

Best Beloved’s health has been up, down, up, and sideways. He’s not too bad, overall, considering what’s wrong with him. As I type this review, we’re both in the last stages of recovering from a really nasty bout of some cold virus or other. I have never felt so ill. It killed appetites, meaning we’ve been missing out on meals, leading to overall weakness. Today is the first day we’ve felt almost human. I don’t want another dose of that, thank you very much indeed.

In other news, we had a new back door and window fitted. We’d been planning to do that for about a decade. We then lashed out on a new air source heat pump heating system. Theoretically, it will save us money on our utility bills. While it’s not perfect, and doesn’t really heat the whole house floor area as one would expect, it’s doing okay and we look to be on track to make some savings as predicted. Our gas consumption is now down to a tiny amount, as we still need to make hot water for washing and so on, but we’re looking at alternatives to that. Our energy supplier recently announced that they sourced all their electricity from renewable and low carbon sources, which is nice, and our monthly payments have been reduced based on our usage. I call that winning.

So we end the year on a generally positive personal note. I know there is still a lot of good out there, and there’s still a lot of beauty in the world, but you have to admit it’s becoming pretty hard to put on a happy face for any length of time. Let me end my drivel by wishing you and your families the very best compliments of the season, and let us hope that 2017 turns out to be not as bad as it looks like it might be. See you in the new year!

The Kipper House of Lies | Robininces Blog

This struck me when I read it.

We share so much, but we seem to understand each other less and less.

Source: The Kipper House of Lies | Robininces Blog

Read it in context of the whole post, too. Hopefully, you will agree as well. It’s something I have come to realise about the whole social media and, indeed, world wide web experiment. The more information freely available to everyone the less everyone seeks out the information that enriches and educates them. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it.

I need to say this

(This is an edited version of a rant I did on Facebook earlier.)

Look, no-one is trying to derail Brexit. Get it into you thick brexiteer skulls that letting our sovereign parliament of elected representatives debate what the terms of our exit from Europe should be is a Good Thing. Isn’t that one of the things you all claim you voted for in that wretched referendum?

I didn’t want to leave Europe, but I am resigned to the fact it will happen. So, forgive me if I don’t want to let the morons grab the steering wheel while we all try to make the exit as beneficial to EVERYONE in the UK as we can.

We have to work TOGETHER. If we don’t, we are all utterly screwed. Understand that, and help make leaving the EU as painless as we can.

Thank you. Peace. Out.

Fings ain’t wot they used to be

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It’s a terrible affliction, and one which I find myself suffering more as I get older. That feeling when, perhaps, you’re listening to a favourite album and it suddenly smacks you between the eyes that you bought it for the first time 35 years ago. You’re suddenly transported back to those days, and you can’t help feeling things were better then than they are now…

See? How can things be worse now than three decades ago? Ridiculous! Look around you! Look at how marvellous our world is.

How marvellous our world was, perhaps. My species is rapidly outgrowing its home planet, with precious little thought to what happens when the resources run out. “Someone else will sort that out for us,” seems to be the consensus. “Someone clever will solve all our problems, so we don’t need to worry about it now.” We carry on being told to consume all we can, and so we do.


For more in this vein, perhaps you might cheer yourself up with some previous posts:
Have we peaked?
Everything seems a bit shit these days


For the first half of the 20th century, life for ordinary people was tough. If you were lucky, you had a job, your health, and enough money put by that you could perhaps consider a short holiday by the seaside once a year. You couldn’t hope to own your own house, or a car. If you were unlucky, you struggled to survive, reliant perhaps on charity to get by until something turned up.

Further afield, the world in general was not a happy place, with conflict and things to generally make life harsh and short for most people. If you were wealthy, however, the world was your oyster. Some had managed to make a large fortune for themselves and their offspring, mainly by exploiting the labour of the poorer members of society.

In some countries, men came to power that promised to make life better for all. They blamed all of society’s ills on ethnic minorities, or anyone who wasn’t “like us”. People believed in their special kind of message, and so the world turned. Eventually, things went too far, and the poor and disadvantaged were plunged once more into a conflict not of their making.

In 1945, after this particularly savage global conflict had finally ended, the returning soldiers, sailors and airmen decided they wanted a world that would be better for everyone and not just those that could afford it. What is now known as the post-war consensus was formed. Many industries were taken into government hands and run for the benefit of all. A universal healthcare and welfare system was set up to ensure no-one would suffer unduly from ill health, and there was something there to catch you and help you get back on your feet if things went wrong. New social housing was built, slums were cleared, education was improved, the world began to look bright and hopeful.

By the 1970s, things weren’t looking quite so bright. Industrial strife gave nationalised industries a bad name, and some politicians began to point to a brave new world where privatised and deregulated businesses could solve all the ills of our world. Slowly but surely, everything the returning servicemen and women from the Second World War had built was taken away again. It’s taken four decades, but even the sacred cow of the National Health Service is being slowly devoured, sliced and diced to the highest bidder.

It struck me today that the calibre of those who built our post-war society was much higher than those who think they should run things today. In the 1940s and 1950s, I suppose the founders of the new Britain hoped their children would learn to run things well, and so it proved for a while. Where things have taken a wrong turn is difficult to say, but perhaps the so-called Baby Boomershad it so good” and really did think it would last forever. They didn’t teach their offspring as well as they might, it seems, and the result is we’ve got a bunch of career politicians who don’t have a clue about much.

Disaffection with the political classes, the intense feeling that former industrial areas are wilfully ignored by the elites in Westminster, has led to a collapse in our political system. We see the rise of the far right—across Europe and beyond, it has to be said—and such political organisations tap into the general dissatisfaction. It’s all the fault of the “others”, those ethnic minorities, the “immigrants” and “migrants”.


An interesting read over at The Guardian about Brexit and the revolt against liberalism.
Nationalism: Nasty or Nice?
Oh, what have you done?


Supposedly sensible people—like me, for example—tend to want to make fun of the new species of demagogue that is arising in the world. The Nigel Farages and Donald Trumps of this world won’t ever amount to much, we tell ourselves. They’re fringe politicians, their followers are not the mainstream of political thought.

Then the Farages and Trumps begin to win.

“There’s no way Trump could win the Republican Party nomination.”

“We won’t vote to leave the European Union.”

“But there’s no way Trump can win the presidential election.”

I find myself thinking, after everything else that’s happened so far in 2016, that we had better prepare ourselves for a Donald Trump presidency. The world, it seems, has turned almost a full circle. Where it will end, I don’t know. I’d like to be optimistic about things, but I rather think it won’t end well. You don’t need to guess who will suffer the most, whatever the outcome.


Ticket To The Moon
ELO, Time, 1981

Words and music by Jeff Lynne

Remember the good old Nineteen Eighties,
When things were so uncomplicated,
I wish I could go back there again
And everything could be the same.

I’ve got a ticket to the moon
I’ll be leaving here any day soon
Yeah, I’ve got a ticket to the moon
But I’d rather see the sunrise, in your eyes.

Got a ticket to the moon
I’ll be rising high above the earth so soon
And the tears I cry might turn into the rain
That gently falls upon your window
You’ll never know.

Ticket to the moon
Fly, fly through a troubled sky
Up to a new world shining bright.

Flying high above,
Soaring madly through the mysteries that come,
Wondering sadly if the ways that led me here,
Could turn around and I would see you there,
Standing there

Ticket to the moon
Flight leaves here today from Satellite 2
As the minutes go by, what shall I do,
I paid the fare, what more can I say,
It’s just one way.

Ticket to the moon.

Read more:  Electric Light Orchestra – Ticket To The Moon Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Coming to terms

It’s been two weeks since we woke to a slim vote to leave the EU. Since then, having been a remainer, I’ve been through the shock, grief and anger stages. It affected me badly, and is still affecting Best Beloved.

I am still very angry. Angry at the mendacity chiefly from the leave side, angry at the ignorance, angry at what the result has unleashed, anger at those having perpetrated things then decided to just point the finger at everyone else and leave the stage. Anger, too, allied with frustration that the entire political class seems intent on in-fighting rather than sorting out the mess we find ourselves in.

Anger, though, doesn’t change much. We are where we are.

There’s a slim chance the whole thing can be kicked into the long grass. The vote was only advisory, has no bearing in law. The government would be stupid to ignore the vote, but the longer they take to enact Article 50—the official starting pistol for the true leave negotiations with the EU—the more likely it could be some kind of deal to remain properly in the EU would happen.

The thing is, despite petitions and marches, grumbling on social media, and the more traditional hurling obscenities at the television news bulletins, the only people who can do anything about anything are currently embroiled in leadership contests. Until that mud slinging stops, and of course the summer recess and conference season has passed, nothing will happen. We remain in limbo until at least October this year, as our world unravels.

It’s almost as if the politicians don’t care about what’s actually happening out here, in the real world. In their little Westminster bubble, they play their silly games as if it’s all that really matters. It is almost as if there is no constitutional crisis, no urgency to sort the mess out, nothing to worry about at all. Crisis? What crisis?

What we must do, those of us still angry about being told to stop grumbling because we “lost”, is hold our so-called leaders to account. If we have to leave the European Union, we must make damned sure we get the best possible deal, and we must fight tooth and nail to make certain those likely to be hardest hit by leaving will be given as much aid and support as they currently get from the EU.

There’s also the small matter of rebuilding our society. Fourteen days seems to have opened the cracks that many of us had thought filled and lost for several decades. All that has been undone must be done again.

It’s not going to be easy. We must each learn to direct our anger, to channel it to make sure that whatever happens we get to build a great future from the ruins of the past.

Oh, what have you done?

There are times in your life when something momentous or calamitous occurs. Think declaring war with Germany in 1939, the assassination of JFK, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mandela walking free—those kinds of things. We seem to be in one of those moments.

Perhaps, as a child playing rather too boisterously, you managed to damage or break something precious. There’s no way it could be mended, no matter how hard you screwed up your eyes and prayed that it might miraculously be put back together again. You have a certain feeling, deep in the pit of your stomach, that signifies there’s been a significant shift in circumstances, and not necessarily for the better. There’s no going back. That’s it, done and dusted.

That’s how I feel about the EU in or out referendum our benighted country held on 23 June 2016, a day that will go down in history as most definitely not one of Britain’s finest.

I voted to remain in the European Union. My reasons are not important right now, I just felt it was the least worst option. Taking a leap into the unknown, on the basis of blatant fabrications, falsehoods and downright lies, seemed a little, well, terminal. I believe it still to be better to try and fix things with a hand on the tiller, than be tied to the mast with no say in how the ship is run. If it doesn’t get better, then think about leaving some other time.

Inevitably, immigration came seething to the fore during the campaign, because the failure of western capitalism was all the fault of the foreigners, of course—even though it’s not and never has been. It dominated the discussion, even though it was plain there was no simple solution, and wouldn’t change much if we decided to leave anyway. Another fact that got swept away in the tide of xenophobia.

Although the result of the vote was close, it tipped to leaving. Just over half of those who bothered to vote decided we should take that leap into the unknown. As it turned out, the consequences have been exactly as predicted. Depending on who you believe, the economy is struggling, the pound is plummeting, the world’s stock markets have the jitters, Scotland wants out of the union, other EU member states are hoping they might be next to take the plunge and leave the gang, and we have no sensible government after the prime minister threw in the towel and the opposition decided to start a leadership battle. To cap it all, reports are that racist and xenophobic incidents have increased by over 50 per cent. It seems that some of those who wanted us “out” really wanted the “out” to mean everyone who wasn’t born here or was perceived as foreign purely by dint of their skin colour. Whether the Faragists expected this to happen, who knows? The fact is the dis-United Kingdom is now a grubbier, more violent and unhappy place than it was.

It’s not even been a week since the vote, and already it seems like the end of days! The worst is the feeling that there is no way out. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to run and hide. We are stuck in this chaotic farce that needn’t have happened, and we’ve broken the country irrevocably. We can’t screw up our eyes and try to will it all back together again.

I find it unbelievable that it has come to this. Did the Powers That Be not foresee this might be the outcome? Were they so cock sure the remain side would win they didn’t consider what might happen if that didn’t come to pass? Indeed, did the leave side really not have any form of plan of what to do in case they won?

Alas, so it seems. No-one expected to lose or win or split almost evenly down the middle, so we’re left with chaos and anarchy and no idea of what to do from anywhere. There’s no reset button.

Forget Article 50 being kicked into the long grass, Scottish Parliament vetoes, rerunning referendums. It’s too late. The genie is out of the bottle. There’s no going back. We have crossed the Rubicon. We are in uncharted waters, with no-one steering the boat.

Everything that I took more or less for granted in my world is suddenly inverted. It’s broken, shattered. There is no stability any more. Everything is twisted, torn and shredded. We are so screwed. Hate, it seems, is winning. I find I am swinging wildly between grief, dread and profound and deepening anger. One moment I’m laughing at the absurdity of it all, the next I’m in tears of sheer desperation.

How dare we be plunged into this chaos for no apparent good reason. Yet, life goes on. The sun still rises in the east; birds sing; we have to eat, shop, pretend our world is not imploding in some calm British sort of way. I don’t think I can cope with pretending it’s all normal much longer. It wasn’t my fault, but I’m tangled up in it, and it’s not fair!

So I say again: what have YOU done‽

Are we sitting comfortably?

Then I shall begin. This is a story about a humble chair.

Read this article from the BBC, which adds little to what was broadcast on their breakfast show today. Then go and read this article, about the same chair, at the Guardian.

(The choices of source show my own biases. While I am not ashamed of this, you may want to check out the same story at other news outlets, just for the heck of it.)

My point here is that the BBC report implies the chair, originally owned by author JK Rowling when she was a lot less well off and famous than she is now, was sold at auction. The article implies the sale was by Rowling, tells us how much the chair made at the auction, but doesn’t really tell us who bought it or what the money made might be used for. Anyone that knows Rowling would guess she might donate some or all of the cash to a charity, rather than simply pocket the cash.

As it transpires, when you fill out the details from the Guardian version, Ms Rowling was not selling the chair. She sold it back in 2002, after she’d painted the various words on it. Now, didn’t the BBC article just imply it was Ms Rowling selling the chair? A supposedly impartial news broadcaster, as the BBC keeps telling us it should be, seems to be only telling half the story. Why hold back some of the information? Was it felt unnecessary? Who decided we should think Rowling was selling the chair, which ticks the “celebrity” box at least, when it was the second or third owner of the object selling this time, who made a fair amount of money on the sale and, it turns out, is donating 10 per cent of the proceeds to a Rowling charity?

While you mull that notion over in your mind, consider what other more important and grave news stories may be being moulded to an agenda before they are broadcast or published to us. My favourite parlour game is pointing out errors and omissions in reports which cover things I actually know about. It makes you really stop and wonder how much is missed out or erroneous in coverage of many other things.

Question everything. Believe nothing.

 

UPDATE (10/4/16): It seems the BBC article has been updated to clarify the chain of ownership. This is a good thing, and shows someone pays attention to how things can be, even accidentally, skewed. I feel my original point about media biases and how we should try to be aware of them still stands.

Tax doesn’t have to be taxing

Readers of a certain age will recall the title of this piece was a slogan coined by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs for an advertising campaign some years ago. They were trying to explain that dealing with your tax affairs needn’t be a complex thing—and to an extent, over the past few years or so, this has proved to be the case.

I am self-employed. I’m a sole trader. I have been such on and off for the past 16 years or so. As one of this growing band of entrepreneurs I must fill out a self-assessment tax form each year. Should I be so lucky as to have had a good financial year and ticked over the minimum income tax threshold, then I dutifully cough up what I owe—as well as half of what HMRC think I might owe next year. Don’t ask.

Anyway, the current bunch of cretins in charge of this fair country decided it would be a spiffing wheeze if we “hardworking” [sic] self-employed types should perform the annual tax return ritual four times a year. You can type the words “tax returns four times a year” into your preferred search engine to find any number of stories about it. Somewhat unsurprisingly, a lot of we “hardworking” [sic] self-employed types were a little upset by the notion, and an online petition was started. Of course I signed it.

Anyway, this last week the signatories received the following email from the Powers That Be:

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Scrap plans forcing self employed & small business to do 4 tax returns yearly”.

Government responded:

Making Tax Digital will not mean ‘four tax returns a year’. Quarterly updates will largely be a matter of checking data generated from record keeping software or apps and clicking ‘send’.

These reforms will not mean that businesses have to provide the equivalent of four tax returns every year. Updating HMRC through software or apps will deliver a light-touch process, much less burdensome and time-consuming than it is today.

At the March 2015 Budget the government committed to transform the tax system by introducing simple, secure and personalised digital tax accounts, removing the need for annual tax returns.

At the 2015 Spending Review the government announced it would invest £1.3bn in HMRC to make this vision a reality, transforming HMRC into one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world.

One element of this vision will be asking most businesses, self-employed people and landlords to keep track of their tax affairs digitally and update HMRC at least quarterly via their digital tax account.

Many taxpayers have told HMRC that they want more certainty over their tax bill, and don’t want to wait until the end of the year, or even longer, before knowing where they stand with their taxes.

We also estimate that £6.5bn in tax goes unpaid every year because of mistakes made when filling in tax returns. These reforms will make it easier for taxpayers to maintain accurate and up-to-date tax affairs, reducing the scope for error.

With businesses keeping track of their tax affairs digitally, quarterly updates will be fundamentally different from filling out an annual tax return in a number of crucial respects:

  • Quarterly updates will not involve all the complexity of a full tax return. The updates will be generated from existing digital business records. In most cases, little or no further entry of information will be needed. It will be much quicker to complete than the current tax return.
  • As part of the process the business owner or individual will receive a developing in-year picture of their tax position, helping people have greater certainty about what they owe, allowing them to plan their finances more effectively. This differs from the current system where many taxpayers are caught out by their tax bill when it finally arrives.
  • In-year updates will not be subject to the same sanctions for lateness or inaccuracies as apply now to the year-end position. HMRC will consult during 2016 on what sanctions might be appropriate for a more digital tax administration.

The government has already announced that these measures will not apply to individuals in employment or pensioners, unless they have secondary incomes of more than £10,000 per year from self-employment or property.

The reforms will rely on businesses, self-employed people and landlords using software or apps that can connect securely to their digital tax account. The government will ensure that free products are available. The Gov.UK service will signpost taxpayers to the right product, with clear HMRC guidance about how to choose software.

HMRC will ensure support is available for people to get online if they need it. We will also provide alternatives for those who genuinely cannot use digital tools, like telephone filing. This will build on our Needs Extra Support service, which has gone from strength to strength in helping more vulnerable customers.

We’re introducing these reforms gradually. We’ve been in discussion with stakeholders since March 2015 and will be consulting on the details of the proposals throughout 2016.

We will use volunteers to test the new tools and processes and give us feedback. Quarterly updates will be introduced for some from 2018, and will be phased in fully by 2020, giving taxpayers time to adapt.

We want to work with all stakeholders to ensure these changes work for them. For more information about the proposed reforms please search for ‘Making Tax Digital’ on Gov.UK or use the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/making-tax-digital

HMRC

That’s a lot of words effectively saying “stop your whinging and just get on with it”.

In case you glazed over, the important bit—for me at least—was this: “Making Tax Digital will not mean ‘four tax returns a year’. Quarterly updates will largely be a matter of checking data generated from record keeping software or apps and clicking ‘send’.“.

Oh, okay. So what they’re saying is I will have to actually start keeping proper accounts with proper software, rather than maintaining a simple spreadsheet and a box full of receipts which has hitherto been quite adequate. Am I expected to spend money on this software?

“The reforms will rely on businesses, self-employed people and landlords using software or apps that can connect securely to their digital tax account. The government will ensure that free products are available. The Gov.UK service will signpost taxpayers to the right product, with clear HMRC guidance about how to choose software.”

Fair enough, I suppose. However, this still expects me to sit down every bloody quarter and punch in some figures to an online account of my taxes. Just so you know, I haven’t managed earned enough to pay income tax for several years. I don’t find an annual return at all burdensome, and doesn’t actually take me more than a couple of hours with my accountant and about 20 minutes online to complete.

Incidentally, who are these “stakeholders” that have been consulted? I’ve not been asked my opinion on this.

Rather than cutting red tape and the burden of the state, this government seems intent on doing exactly the opposite. (Surprise!) Far from a “light touch” I think it’s going to cause more annoyance than anything else. I’ve got better things to be doing than submitting quarterly updates on my lack of tax-earning ability. Why the hell would I want to keep up with my tax affairs like that anyway?

I guess it’s going to happen whatever we do. My ranting about it isn’t going to change it, so in five years I shall be grumbling about it again as the free software fails to connect to my digital tax account for the umpteenth time because I haven’t updated it or because I’ve had to dig out an old PC to run it because Mac OS or iOS aren’t supported. My guess is it’ll be like every other government IT scheme. It’ll crash and burn, and cost billions to implement, saving nothing in the long run.

This rant is brought to you by HMRC’s web site’s failure to recognise Best Beloved’s online account this year, requiring a postal password reset because he doesn’t have a registered email address with the system. It bodes well, doesn’t it?

A look askance, 2014

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It is that time of year for reflections on the past twelve months. Everyone is doing it: the telly is drowning in restrospectives, and Facebook has foisted an unwanted review on us. Happily, with the latter it’s easy to ignore and fail to “share”, and with the former it is simple just to turn off the television set.

How was 2014 at Snaptophobic Towers? Busy sums it up. The model building thing just keeps on coming. I am actually feeling overwhelmed and beginning to think I can’t actually do all the work I’ve taken on at the moment! I still can’t actually believe just how busy I have become in the past two years. I really ought to have done it sooner! The past year has also seen me begin to support a manufacturer with a demonstration stand. I hope this will continue in the next year, time and funds permitting.

Of course, being occupied full time has meant photography has taken a seat a long way back down the bus. I managed one serious photographic trip this year, missing out on some seriously fine weather during the summer. The interest is still there, and I need to buck my ideas up next year. I have been considering some form of project for 2015, perhaps even a 365, but I have a few days to think about that yet. Don’t hold your breath!

Trials and tribulations with cars culminated in the disposal of my little red Fiat, and the acquisition of a black Škoda. I still miss the Fiat. Driving it was often a hoot, though long distances could become tiresome. Still, with a larger, more comfy car, we are tending to travel a little further. If circumstances had allowed, I suspect I would have kept the Seicento and repaired him for sunny days and local trips.

We are giving some thought to supporting local theatre groups. Best Beloved used to be heavily involved in amateur dramatics when he was younger, and the interest is still there. I don’t want to be involved with productions, but I wouldn’t mind seeing plays and musicals. We are going to keep an eye on what the local companies are getting up to.

The end of the year has seen health issues. I caught a cold at the end of November, which knocked me sideways for a couple of days. Having shared it with Best Beloved, as one does, we were just getting over it when a visit to a modelling show gave us another dose. The two got together and had a right old party. Here I sit, a month on, only just recovered. I do so hate being ill.

About a decade ago, I declared the world insane. I am firmly convinced I went to sleep one night in September 2001 and woke up in some bizarre parallel universe. As far as 2014 has been concerned, it’s been about as bat-shit crazy as it’s possible to be. I won’t go into details, but it does seem there are some particularly ugly chickens beginning to come home to roost. Where it will end is anyone’s guess. For my part, there are so many things I want to get angry about. The rise of foodbanks in a wealthy country, the NHS being sold off to the highest bidder, the blatant lies and untruths uttered from the mouths of politicians of all stripes, the rise of the right wing as if the 1930s never happened… I could go on, but I won’t. I have decided to try and pick my fights in 2015. I can’t get annoyed by everything all the time, after all. The biggest fight, perhaps, is to kick the Conservatives out of office before they destroy the NHS completely.

If I have one wish for 2015 it would be that all the religious fanatics, political loons and all that go along with them suddenly realised that we are all living on this tiny blue dot spinning in an eternal void and we ought to try and play nicely together before it’s too late.

Finally, let me wish you all the best for the new year. Here’s to 2015, and may your god bless all who sail in her!