I was due to pay the balance of my income tax by January 31, as is usual with self assessment for the self-employed. But declining revenue and rising expenses meant I was tapped out at the time - Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs would simply have to wait. Thanks to a combination of various freelance jobs paying off [and my new part-time job as a creative writing lecturer], I was able post a cheque this morning to settle the account in full.
Three hours later the post arrived with a stern letter from - you guessed it - Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. A self assessment final demand, no less. To hammer home the point, there was lots of bold red ink. [It would have been nice if the words "Danger, Will Robinson, danger!" had been audible when I opened the envelope, but you can't have everything.] The gist of the letter was simple: my payment was late. Yep, knew that, thanks.
The letter continued: If Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs didn't receive the amount overdue by 28 February it would be adding a further 5% surcharge to the amount owed. I knew that was coming as well, so no alarms, no surprises there. But hang about - if they didn't receive the amount by 28 February? Today is March the 5th. Having received this letter, how was I meant to comply with its contents? Use my time machine to turn back history?
A glance to the top of the page reveals the date this letter was supposedly outputted: 16 February. Now, I know second class post isn't expected to be as fast as first class, but does it really take 17 days for a second class letter to get from Stockton On Tees to Biggar in southern Scotland? Happily, I added extra to my cheque to cover the interest charge for lateness. Let's just hope it gets to the payment office sooner rather than later.