Brainteaser fun

I’d like to congratulate Cambridge City Council – and presumably somewhere along the line Gordon Brown – for their most Machiavellian of brainteasers, the form you have to fill in to claim council tax benefit – a form which all but the most dedicated must surely toss aside, weeping “I’ll just pay the bloody money…”

Why is it, I wonder, that it is nowadays so easy to fill in a tax return, the form that enables you to pay tax (online forms, easy-to-follow instructions talking you through the different amounts you have to enter, an instant result telling you exactly how much you owe) when the form you fill in to claim back tax seems designed to trick you and befuddle you at every corner (demands for information about people you barely know, demands for documents you have long since lost or thrown away, approximately four hundred pages to fill in, each filled in with warnings that failure to do exactly as they want will result in a delay in the payment of your benefits and possible loss of British status)?

As an Oxbridge educated 27-year-old I just about made it through the taxing (ha ha) process of filling in the form, though I still have to get vital information from my long since missing Uncle in Australia and somehow fake bank statements that I got rid of at the turn of the century. And it took me two and a half hours to get this far, not including the bit where I hurled things at the wall and shaved off my eyebrows in frustration.

I’m thinking what a useful diversion these forms must be for pensioners, though. It’s not like they have anything to fill their hours, after all. And I understand the pension form itself is rated “IMPOSSIBLE!!!” on the sudoku scale.

Apparently over a third of all pensioners never claim it at all. I mean – how stupid can you get??!!

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