Here’s what would happen if HMRC sold Snickers bars – and you got one without nuts.
When I was being investigated by HMRC it took me years to work out that these were not normal people working in a normal (business-like) world. I treated them in a sensible and business-like way. That was so wrong.
Rather than go into the details of my case I’ll use a metaphor of a Snickers bar to explain how they work.
So you buy a Snickers bar from a shop and you go home, you unwrap it and – no nuts.
You go back to the shop and explain the situation.
They say, “Sorry about that, have another bar.”
Boom! No drama, no shocks.
But HMRC don’t take that approach.
They would firstly ask for your receipt to prove that you got the bar from them. If you paid by card they would want to see the statement showing that transaction.
They want to see the bar with the bite in the wrapper.
They would then want to know why you bought the chocolate and they would also ask if you got any pleasure from eating the chocolate – you took a bite remember?
They would then point out that while the receipt shows you bought a Snickers bar there is no evidence to show that the Snickers bar you are complaining about is the one that you actually bought from them.
At some point in the investigation (because this goes on for years) they will discover that Snickers bars used to be called Marathons. This will confuse them and they will ask if the name change had anything to do with you.
They might then go on to point out that a bite of the bar had actually been consumed – up to a fifth of the bar – so why would it be reasonable to replace the chocolate with a whole new bar?
They would then refuse to replace the bar on the grounds that the packaging had been broken and it was semi-consumed. They would point out that you had taken pleasure from that initial bite. The would say that the machine that mixes the nuts is not always consistent and a reasonable person would accept that some bars didn’t have nuts in the first bite. They’ll argue that the rest of the bar may well have contained nuts.
You’ll be given a leaflet to say you can appeal this decision – but it will take up to 12 months to review and the person reviewing it has no real power to change the verdict or chastise HMRC for their behaviour.
And it’s that lack of accountability that is the heart of bad service.
Of course here I’m using complaining about bar of chocolate to satirise HMRC – but this is really how they work. And this is why simple cases drag on for years and years.
Ask them why this is and they would say, “We are here to enforce the system. If we handed out replacement Snickers bars to one person then everybody would expect one and the whole system would fall apart.”