The tax man (or woman) cometh

26 April 2004

Some mail from the IRD finally caught up with me. I was —a little— very surprised to find that that they felt I owed them about 7,700 in penalty tax, interest, etc. According to the tag line at the bottom of the statement, interest was accruing at 2.38 (which is about 11%—I wish I could get that from the bank). Now, of course, I felt that I probably didn’t owe them anything (I tend to be a little bit obsessive about paperwork); but, I was troubled by the thought that I might.

Anyway, I called the 0800 number, and waited in the queue for 10 minutes or so, then I was automatically transferred to another queue (I know that because the second queue told me how long I could expect to wait). That reminds me, I recall visiting one major Government department in the mid-90s because I was looking to buy a PABX system (a phone system, aka a switch) and the company I was buying from suggested I visit this particular department. The managers of the department were delighted with their new phone system because it had enabled them to reduce the average time that clients/customers/citizens were waiting in a queue from three hours to 20 minutes. Yikes! Meanwhile, back to the IRD. After another six or seven minutes in queue number 2, I was put through to a woman called Amy. I have rarely dealt with anyone at a call centre who was as professional, helpful, and considerate as she was. Hats off to the IRD. Some of the people with whom I am training in psychodrama work with the IRD—I must remember to pass on how my thoughts about how excellent was the “service encounter’. I think what came across most strongly was here concern for me rather than the money. I know over the past few years the IRD have been trying to make a huge shift in their culture (no small undertaking), and from my point of view it is working. (BTW, cultural change is on my very hard to achieve list.)

As a final aside, one of the most engaging movies about people in tax department is A taxing woman (Marusa no onna). It’s Japanese with English subtitles, but it is so funny. They made a sequel, but it wasn’t nearly as-good.