The penny hasn’t dropped for wee Tommy Harris yet.
AS PLANNED, the new body overseeing MPs’ expenses is going the extra mile to make it as difficult as possible for us to do our job.
Good. Do you know why it’s good? Because it reminds you what we all go through when claiming business expenses, or undertaking any other routine admin activity.
Every organisation that has a thousand customer facing staff has 400 other people responsible for making it impossible for the customer facing staff to do their jobs. Making them unable to deliver on their obligations to the customer in a satisfactory manner. Just ask Obo.
Those ‘trolls’ or ‘business prevention officers’ are all on the company payroll to administer rules and regulations that emanate, directly or not, from government.
Someone, after all, has to be responsible for the 10,000 or so fuel receipts my company expenses team now receives every month, subsequent to a C&E/HMRC rule change around 2007.
Someone has to check that the sandwich I bought for lunch was bought far enough away from my branch office to be eligible for reimbursement. I once bought a sandwich 40 miles into a 200 mile journey to a customer site. My claim was denied. Had I bought my lunch at the next motorway services, I would have been reimbursed.
I understand that the rule is based on a misunderstanding, or perhaps a deliberate misinterpretation, of a Customs and Revenue rule that people who work from an office based in their private homes can offset only a maximum of 85 per cent of their home phone calls for tax purposes.
I know all about that too. Misunderstanding, or perhaps a deliberate misinterpretation, of a Customs and Revenue rule is a battle I frequently have to do.
Last year, I flew to Glasgow, picked up a hire car, went to the customer site, did my work, returned the car to the airport and flew home.
I was taxed on this hire car as a benefit in kind, because the expenses monkey had either misunderstood the rule, or erred on the side of caution lest he be punished for a lax interpretation himself.
I know he was wrong, because I asked a tax accountant. If the hire car had been at my home address, in lieu of the car I already had an allowance for, it would have been a BiK. It wasn’t and it wasn’t.
I lost the battle, but won the war. I was never reimbursed, having been taxed at 40% on a hire car that was a logical and reasonable business expense, but it never happened again.
At a briefing held by Ipsa last week, a very senior, very highly-paid official (not being familiar with the scheme he’s paid to oversee, the only question from MPs he was able to answer was that he was in the “£80,000-£90,000″ pay band) was unable to justify this petty little rule.
I expect it frustrated you Tom, that his attitude was “and nor do I have to, sonny”.
Welcome to the real world.
As I said yesterday, as soon as you are abiding by the same rules as the rest of us, I’ll support any plea for a relaxation of the rules 100%.