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Will the taxman ever write to me like this?

Professional escorts have to put up with a lot of nonsense, and here’s a fine example. It’s an email ostensibly from a representative of our tax authorities and sent to an independent escort, Rhia Charles. I don’t know Rhia but she has kindly given me permission to quote this contemptible thing in full.

I’m reminded of those Nigerian scam emails we all get – you know the kind of thing “I am the only daughter of the late Finance Minister of Khazad-dûm and I crave your honourable assistance in an important financial transaction …” They are designed to by-pass the brain and appeal straight to the emotions. Usually it’s greed but in this example it’s fear. See what you think:

Hi Ms Charles,

My name is Mr David Taxington, I am a collector of taxes for the society of Great Britain! I have noticed that you are charging many thousands of pounds to gullible men for the privilege to smash you’re disgusting putrid pussy! To make matters worse, you are not paying your tax. However, this will now be rectified and I will pay you a personal visit to collect these unpaid taxes. Please respond back with your home or office address and I will pop round. The amount of unpaid taxes due is 100,000GBP. I have worked this out using a calculation that is quite simple. You charge 10,000 for a stunning 7 day holiday! You must have had at least 50 of these in one year. With the basis that you can earn a minimum 500,000 per year minimum, I have charged a 20% tax on these earnings.

Now you must not ignore my mail. You may think that you can ignore my mail as I don’t know where you live. Well Ms Charles, in your line of work, you need to meet people. It would be a shame if I had to pretend to be a client and pay you a visit…. You need your face and body to be immaculate for your business and I only hope you see the logic in my request that you pay me the due taxes promptly.

I will be awaiting your response.

Regards,

David Taxington-Shaw
Collections Manager
British Society

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

 

You may already be harbouring one or two doubts about whether this is genuinely from HM Revenue & Customs, the arm of government responsible for the administration and collection of taxes in the UK, but you could check by following their advice

if you have any doubt that an email received from HMRC is genuine, forward it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk then delete it.

Btw rumour has it that when HMRC first set up this service it failed spectacularly because almost everything forwarded to them was caught by their spam filters and deleted before anyone at their end got to read it. Anyway this one definitely isn’t from them, and to be fair it doesn’t claim to be: it’s from the society of Great Britain – whoever the heck they are.

So could it be from a genuine HMRC employee who has gone freelance; someone who has got some inside information and decided to use it for his own advantage? No it couldn’t. David Taxington is clueless about the way our tax system operates:

  • If he doesn’t have somebody’s address he cannot possibly know they are not paying tax.
  • He doesn’t seem to know the name of the UK tax agency. Neither HMRC nor its predecessor the Inland Revenue are mentioned anywhere.
  • He doesn’t appear to know that within HMRC assessing tax and collecting it are separate functions. The teams that work out how much tax is due are not the same people who make sure it is paid. Ever since parliament took control of taxation away from the monarch we’ve been mercifully safe from vigilante tax collectors extracting arbitrary estimates of tax arrears from the defenceless.
  • The Business Economic Exercise that leads to estimated earnings of £500,000 would be laughed out of court by any First Tier Tax Tribunal. Tax inspectors do have the right in certain circumstances to estimate profits but they have to do it to the best of their knowledge on the basis of available evidence, and what’s more the taxpayer has the right of appeal.
  • Having grossly over-estimated the profit our tax collector completely under-estimates the tax that would be due on £500,000. He calculates it at at straight 20%, but evidently doesn’t realise that the 20% basic rate only applies on taxable income up to £35,000, or that self employed profits are also liable to Class 4 NIC. The total tax due on profits of £500,000 should be about £240,000. If that looks very high it’s largely because profits over £150,000 are currently taxed at 50% – the reduction to 45% doesn’t take effect until April next year.
  • Finally, and this might be the clincher, there’s the quality of the English. Whatever you might think of HMRC they do at least have a very good record for training their staff to write properly. Their people don’t write GBP instead of £, they don’t change their own name between the beginning and end of a letter, and they know better than to write stuff like ” you’re disgusting putrid pussy” because they know it should be “your …”

 

The letter is of course laughably crude: a mixture of attempted blackmail and menaces with maybe just enough suggestion of incompetence to give the author a fighting chance of claiming it was meant as a joke. But just as with the Nigerian email scams there is a slim chance he might ensnare an escort with it. So here are a few final serious points to be made arising out of it.

  1. Anyone doing sex work is vulnerable to blackmail attempts; although the risks are probably greater from neighbours, former lovers and landlords than from employees of HMRC. For your own financial and personal safety it makes sense to reduce your vulnerability by ensuring your tax affairs are in order.
  2. The right way to deal with serious threats is to take them to the police. And making sure you have nothing to hide from the taxman gives you greater freedom to do so.
  3. HMRC do catch escorts who don’t pay tax. Their methods are more sophisticated, and more civilized, but anyone who is caught inevitably ends up paying more tax, interest and penalties than if they had held their hands up and played the tax game properly.
  4. And if you aren’t registered for tax and you receive an email like this you should get yourself a good accountant and instruct him to help you get sorted.
  5. Attempted blackmail is a criminal offence. Neglecting to register for tax is not, and if you haven’t registered, the way you demonstrate that your failure is down to neglect rather than the criminal offence of tax evasion, is to get an accountant to register you before HMRC catch you.

 

Rhia Charles replied to David Taxington and you can read her splendid reply here.

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