HMRC scoops award for worst 'written tripe'

The taxman has been announced as the joint-first winner of an award that recognises the worst written communications of the last year.

Bestowed annually by the Plain English campaign, the so-called ‘Golden Bull’ award was scooped by eleven organisations including HM Revenue & Customs.

The campaign, set up to promote clear language, said the “written tripe” from HMRC was found on its website in a FAQ section about drawdown pensions.

It is, in effect, the tax department’s best answer to a self-posed question at the top of the section. It asked, ‘Can I switch from flexible drawdown to capped drawdown?’

The Revenue’s answer, which has won it the unenviable award, states: “ No – the test on whether or not you qualify for flexible drawdown is only at the start of flexible drawdown.

“The decision to move to flexible drawdown is irrevocable under the tax rules and you can't lose the ability to take drawdown pension using flexible drawdown.

“Once you are in flexible drawdown it is for you and your scheme administrator to decide how much you take out and how often. The amounts drawn under flexible drawdown may be similar to or different from the amounts allowed under capped drawdown.

“However, there are tax consequences if you subsequently make contributions to or resume active membership of any registered pension schemes after taking flexible drawdown.”

Also among those acknowledged for their “dire” written communication is BT, for an email error message, and Buckingham County Council, for its consultancy services framework.

The latter, spotted by a small consultancy trying to work it out, said local government procurement rules were hard enough to digest without the extra barrier of “gobbledygook.”

The framework states: “ Buckinghamshire County Council is seeking to establish a Framework Agreement to create a flexible base of external consultancy expertise to assist with the implementation of its Transformation programme and other change projects across the organisation.

“The Framework is intended to provide flexible and agile access to resources in support of the core and additional services identified in the specification.

“Through the Framework, the Council is also seeking to channel its spend in a way that provides enhanced value for money and helps to shape a single view of change.

“We are seeking to appoint a number of capable and innovative service providers to the Framework who can deliver against a multi-project portfolio of work over the next few years.

“We will be looking to our Framework partners not just to respond to our needs and we will also welcome a proactive approach and partners that will bring fresh ideas and boundary-pushing proposals to the table.”

According to the campaign, equally ‘boundary-pushing’ is BT’s “awful” use of words in the message: “ The string too long is refused or truncated and the service works fine.”

The Plain English judges reflected: “We at the campaign know that this is a computer 'error' message. Our question is: who wrote it?

“Someone, somewhere, decided on that particular wording, and it could easily be a whole lot clearer. The computer may well say 'no' but a human instructed it to do so somewhere along the line.”



8th December 2014

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