It's probably some sort of jingoism on my part but I can't say I'm that impressed by the professionals that we have occasionally used here. By professionals I don't mean doctors or mechanics or plumbers or builders. They seem fine or at least just normally inept. No, I'm talking about the sort of people who work from offices and should wear suits - architects, lawyers, accountants, bank workers and the like.
A friend of ours was going through a divorce. The lawyer forgot to tell her that the divorce had been granted. Right on the ball then?
When we first got here we hired a lawyer to sort out our residence papers. We thought we could do it ourselves but to avoid hassle we paid a professional. Unfortunately the lawyer was completely unaware that the legislation was changing. He went through the tried and tested process but, by the time we went to collect the documentation, it no longer existed. We'd paid upfront. There was no talk of a refund. We did the correct paperwork ourselves.
As a part of some half hearted anti money laundering legislation everyone has to prove that they are who they say they are to their bank. This has to be done in person at a branch. The legislation was introduced in October 2010 leaving over four years for the banks to collect the information. In the last few weeks the banks have been in some sort of blue funk trying to get an extension on the implementation date at the end of April. They seemed to have forgotten to tell anyone. I read it in the press. This really is leaving your weekend homework to the school bus on Monday morning.
Last year the tax office caught up with some untaxed pension income of mine. I went to the Revenue to sort it out with my annual declaration. I wanted to correct any underpayment in previous years too but the Tax Office said that was a job for an accountant. I'd gone directly to the Tax Office because I reckoned that if they made a mistake at least it would be an "official" mistake. Anyway, following their advice I went to an accountant in the town where I was living. He told me there was no past tax liability - I was in the clear. The man did not fill me with confidence though. He used a calculator for the simplest of sums, He made lots of ooh and aah sounds as he stared at his computer screen. He kept reaching for his fags before remembering that it's no longer legal to smoke at work. He wasn't Cockburn's Port.
This year I have to have an accountant as I am self employed. The first thing my accountant did on my behalf was to register me as self employed. I knew it had happened because the Social Security confirmed it in a text message and took money from my bank account. They took 40% more than the accountant told me they would take. I heard nothing from the accountant though, not a dickie bird. When I went to see him a month or so ago I asked for the self employment registration certificate. "Oh, haven't we sent it you?," he said.
The tax people don't seem to have forgotten that I get a UK pension. They sent me a letter offering an amnesty on any unpaid taxes on pension income to foreigners like me - no interest, no fines, just the normal payment of any unpaid back tax. My new accountant didn't seem to want to see the letter that the Tax People had sent even though I said that it talked about a new process, a special form. Unlike last year's accountant my new accountant is sure I owe the Revenue something.
Today, when I sent a WhatsApp to ask him when I might see the paperwork that they were going to submit on my behalf he replied by phone. I've told him that I try to avoid technical phone calls in Spanish preferring emails or other written options. He told me there was a specific form that had to be completed in my case. The Tax Office need to send the form to me so that in turn I can send it on to the accountant. I presume this is the special form mentioned in the letter that he didn't want to read. Before he rang off he said he just wanted to be sure that he had my correct postal address. It was perfect except for the street, the PO box and the town.
He thinks we should leave the submission till the last possible day. That sounds like the perfect strategy to me.