Friday, 2 December 2011

Going to the dogs ...

Going? Passed through customs at Terminal 3 The Dogs International an hour ago and now checking in at The Dogs Holiday Inn.

I'm referring to Portugal. It's not normally my style to have a go at my host country which I'm very privileged to live in - thanks for that Portugal. But I got something through the post the other day which made me think no wonder this country is broke!

It's a fixed penalty notice for the princely sum of €15 (£13) because I paid my 2008 Road Tax late. (Called Imposto Unico de Circulação (IUC) in Portugal - it's the annual tax you pay for owning a car.)

Now I don't object to paying Road Tax, especially as it's very cheap in Portugal - €52.84 (£45) for a year - compared with the UK (about £150). Nor do I even object to paying the penalty for late payment. But what I DO object to ...

... is the reason WHY I didn't pay the tax on time, namely, because nobody reminded me to pay it. In Britain, you get a letter a couple of weeks before which you take to the Post Office and you buy your Tax Disc - couldn't be simpler.

And the other thing about this which makes me even crosser is the fact it's taken them three and a half years to get round to sending out the penalty notice. It's not because I object to the €15, it's just the sheer and utter hopelessness of the incompetence of having left it so long!

Can you believe that it's not possible to pay monthly National Insurance Contributions by direct debit in Portugal? You have to pay at an ATM between the 1st and the 20th of the month following. How easy is that to forget to do? I'm quite an organised person where that sort of thing's concerned but when I signed up to the Segurança Social online portal thingummy recently, I consulted my conta corrente and was surprised to discover I was €1.36 in arrears. Turned out this is interest because I was a few days late paying the May 2010 instalment! Well sod them, I'm not going to pay it until someone asks me for it.

Note to Portugal - the way to get people to pay taxes (or anything else) is to make it easy for them to pay. A system like direct debit whereby they don't even have to think about it is optimal. And once you've made it easy to pay but they still don't do it, you hit them hard and fast with the penalty. It's a simple little thing called cash flow.

And you wonder why the Germans are getting a bit fed up with bankrolling Greece?