Sitting at my desk, some woman just wandered in through our warehouse and asked to talk to a director. I replied that I'm one so how can I help. She tersely declared that she works for HMRC and demanded a payment of £15,000 for overdue corporation tax.
I was taken aback for a moment as she looked about 60 and was dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt - it's not the kind of thing one would expect her to come out with.
As it happened, the people who deal with our accounts were both at a funeral at the time, so I said I'd have to talk to them first. She, however, insisted that as I was a director I would be able to sign a cheque right there and then. Of course I could, but there was no way I would even consider doing that, especially for someone who just breezes in arrogantly from the street.
She fixed me with a surprised glare (perhaps for not shitting myself when faced with a rep of the government, I dunno), before handing me her card and telling me all the nasty things that might happen if it's not paid in the next week. Now, I've often said that tax is effectively extortion with menaces, but I've never seen it illustrated in such a blatant manner.
On later talking to our credit controller, she said that we'd paid a huge amount up front and were just waiting for some communication of the balance due before settling it - that's what one would expect from a government agency, after all. However, we'd not received a single letter or phone call to tell us what we were supposed to pay. Wouldn't it have been much more professional - and less costly in time and, therefore, money - to ring or write rather than sending some late middle-ager round to ask for a cheque out of the blue?
And when did employing similar intimidatory methods to 1930s mafia protection racketeers become an acceptable state policy?
UPDATE: By coincidence, Ken Frost has today provided another example of eager HMRC debt collectors turning up unannounced and demanding cash.