Martin Tolhurst Banner Image

Knowledge Hub

News and Events

I'm a solicitor not a bleeding tax collector

View profile for Richard Carter
  • Posted
  • Author

This week – “I’m a solicitor, not a bleeding tax collector” and a bizarre interview.

To qualify as a solicitor takes a minimum of 7 years. When setting out on that path many dream of the life saving tasks they envisage they will perform in their career  - the “not guilty finding” of the jury for an innocent client or that victory speech on the steps of the High Court following a case of injustice. Of course for most the reality of everyday legal work is more mundane but the bit that has always got my goat is being an unpaid tax collector for HMRC. In property we submit payments for our clients Stamp Duty Land Tax – a property purchase tax. Every week we pay thousands to the Revenue of client’s hard earned cash. The rules are strict – the 70 question form has to be completed and just one omission means it is rejected. Most importantly the money grabbling charlatans want payment within 14 days of the completion date or else. If payment does not hit the Revenue coffers in time they take ownership of your firstborn child and a right to take your forthcoming holiday to Cornwall for you. To be fair they can have my daughter but not my holiday. And basically, we do it for nothing – solicitors efficiently collect billions for HMRC every year and do not get a penny for the privilege. But of course it does not work that way in reverse. Attached is a photo of a letter I received from the Revenue in February. Last September I came across a cheque from HMRC sending me a whopping £180 tax refund during the pandemic that I had forgotten to pay in. I returned it last September asking them to send me a replacement or, given its the 21st Century, my bank details so they could credit my account. It took them a mere 5 months to respond. Unhelpfully they are going to send me a replacement cheque but that would take a FURTHER 5 MONTHS – and this week it duly arrived just 9 months after it was returned and 2 years after issue. No apology, no interest credit.  When I dared question this on the phone they were frank about it – one rule for us, one rule for you. And they can’t process it any quicker because they are either all working from home or on strike. God bless ‘em.  

This week I conducted second round interviews for a solicitor apprentice position. There’s can be a lot moaning about the younger generation in the law but the 4 school leavers I saw this week were all bloody excellent. Smart, engaging, and enthusiastic it was difficult to separate them. I wish we could accommodate all 4. Face to face interviews are so much better than Zoom and that would certainly have been the case in the most bizarre interview I ever conducted. We were recruiting for a senior manager to replace someone moving on. The manager leaving recommended a friend who, he said, was “really capable and very experienced”. The CV looked good and he was booked into see me and King Simon Franklin. 2pm on the day and he was shown in. He looked slightly dishevelled with beads of sweat on his forehead. The whiff in the air was pungent. Not sweat but something else. Simon shot me a glance and raised his eyebrows. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was it and then a second wave hit me. Whisky. The answers to our questions were slurred, we had to repeat many of the questions and he was clearly over whatever is the safe limit for interview purposes. We should have halted the interview after 2 minutes and said “thanks but no thanks” but because we’re British we ploughed on stoically, wasted 20 minutes with gentle questions and said we would be in touch.  I confirmed to my soon- to- be ex-colleague that his friend didn’t quite fit what we were looking for. The look he gave told me he knew the real reason.  

Next week – Never trust the quiet staff when Harry Styles is around…. And handling those telephone sales calls.



    • CommentRichard Carter
    • Posted

    Thank you for your comments Ian Fletcher. Mr Carter promises to include you in a future edition…

    • Good to see Mr. Carter on form! Ian Fletcher
    • Posted

    Richard.. still think you should have employed the poor bloke!