Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Had a dodgy tax code?

The way that the income tax system works is a mystery to most people. At this time of year some people are desperately trying to get their tax affairs in order to meet the 31st January deadline for submitting their tax return.

But many more face confusion according to reports on the BBC which suggests that following the introduction of a new computer system (sounds familiar..) some people may be getting the wrong income tax codes in the post. If these errors are not corrected, they may end up paying too much money in the new tax year which starts in April.

The problem seems to affect those who have changed jobs or who have had more than one job. Each year you are allowed to earn £6475 without paying any tax. Where you have more than one job, that tax allowance is sometimes split between your jobs so that each employer gives you a tax free amount and then you pay tax on the rest. The problem seems to be that the Inland Revenue are in some cases splitting the tax code for 2010/11 between employers even if you no longer work for them! As a result you could end up paying too much tax.

If anyone who lives in the Northavon constituency receives a notice of coding that they don't understand or which looks wrong they are welcome to e-mail me or post me a copy and I will be happy to take up their concerns with HMRC.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Time to postpone the exams

Large numbers of young people will be trying to take exams over the next few days on modules that will count towards their final mark, but the cold weather (and possible further snow) may mean that some may not be able to get to schools to take their exams. I think this would be very unfair on those who, through no fault of their own cannot get to schools/colleges, especially in more rural areas.

The exam boards say the exams can't be postponed, and nor can they be expected to set extra papers for (say) next month when hopefully the weather will have cleared. All they will say is that people who can't take their modules now can do so in June.

But this mean that some students get to do their exams now when the subject matter is fresh in their mind and they can concentrate on a small number of papers, whilst others will have to sit them in June alongside all their other papers. This is unlikely to be give a fair assessment of the relative strengths of the different candidates - which is presumably the point of the exams.

Whilst some students will have no trouble getting in next week, too many face disruption for the exam boards to refuse to act. In my view the fairest thing to all would be a short delay - perhaps a month - which would save the exam boards having to set extra exams but would avoid an exam pile-up in the Summer. We need to get the exam boards to show a bit of humanity.