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It’s Really Taxing To Be Perfect

, , , , , , , , | Working | January 2, 2022

I still remain somewhat envious many years later of a truck salesman I once worked with. He was perfect in every way, everything he did was right, and he had a perfect life, wife, children, and a high-paying job. Everyone else existed to ensure this situation continued… at least inside his own head.

In fact, he was terrible. He didn’t listen to customers or colleagues, missed items off quotes, and even failed to supply items that had been specifically requested. In one case, he messed up so badly that, after losing the court case, we had to give the customer a brand new £60,000 truck for free because we were deemed to have supplied something not fit for purpose. But of course, this couldn’t possibly be the salesman’s fault, so he just ignored the criticism. Most places would have fired him, but sadly he had the right handshake.

The best example I witnessed involved a conversation between him and my boss, the regional finance manager. The tax laws in the UK had recently changed, and now anyone with a company car had to keep and submit business mileage records to ensure they ended up on the right tax codes. Prior to this, many people just claimed they were doing enough to be on the lowest rate of tax, but strangely, the UK government now wanted proof.

All staff with company cars had been informed and given paperwork to complete, and most did it. Not this salesman. He just assumed everything would be the way he desired, ignored what he didn’t want to do, and then seemed genuinely amazed when he got a new tax code, showing he would be paying far more. So, in he came to our office to explain how the world should be adjusted to suit his whims.

He happily explained to my boss that he just needed to tell the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) that he was doing enough mileage and everything would go back to normal. Over ten minutes or so, my increasingly exasperated boss explained that the rules had changed, the salesman had been informed, and since taking an initial reading from all the cars, nothing had been submitted. The salesman’s smile never changed, and he just kept repeating the same statement that it could all just be changed.

My boss took him out to his car and showed him that, even including all his private mileage, he hadn’t done enough to be on the lowest code, and given we knew how far away from the dealership he lived, his business mileage wasn’t even close to getting him off the worst code. This made no difference; the salesman just continued insisting that it was just a matter of telling the HMRC to change the code.

Eventually, my boss exploded. In twelve years working for him, I only saw him lose his temper twice. The other time was with a fitter who insisted we should have ignored a court-ordered deduction for child maintenance and lied to the government on his behalf. But that was nothing compared to the red-faced screaming fit my boss inflicted on the man before him. I was the only other person in the office, trying to be as small and quiet as possible while holding in my laughter.

The salesman’s smile never changed. It seemed that given my boss was clearly angry about something, and he was perfect, it obviously couldn’t be him. So, he waited, and when my boss ran out of breath, he calmly and politely repeated his instructions to just talk to the tax office about restoring his old tax code. He was told to leave our office immediately and physically forced out by my boss, and he seemed to remain genuinely baffled as to what was going on.

He never changed. A couple of years later, he came to us and asked for copies of all his mileage records for the last few years. It seemed that the government wanted more information regarding previous years, as they suspected he had been underpaying tax for a while. The discussion was calmer this time, with no screaming, but when my boss explained to him that he had still never submitted any records and we could not help him, he seemed unable to understand. The requests went back years before it was compulsory, and he was now facing a huge bill for back taxes. But somehow, this was still something other people should be able to solve for him, as it couldn’t possibly be his mistake.

He was perfect, after all.

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