Five days before the deadline, I finally got round to filling in my tax return today. I did so online, and it was painless. For a web application, it’s a pretty good one. I noticed only one absurdity: there’s a box you can fill in “to enter any additional information you feel is needed to support your entries on the Employment form” (box 1.40, tax fans). A note above a big fat text box says:
You should only enter alpha, numeric and the following special characters ()*,-/. You cannot enter more than 2200 characters (including spaces) here.
The £ sign and the Enter or Return key located on your keyboard are not accepted.
Leaving aside the dodgy oh-so-programmerese text, I can’t use a pound sign? OK, it’s only an “additional information” box, but it’s a tax return! I guess this was justified to a PHB using some fluff about character encodings, but it smacks of laziness to me.
And of course I also can’t use plus and equals signs if I want to include some maths, or use a dollar sign if US currency is involved, or quote anything, or use those wacky colons and semi-colons for punctuation, or use multiple paragraphs (erk!), or even use an apostrophe (hey, I know how), an exclamation mark or question mark. I guess I could use txtspk, if only to annoy the Inland Revenue (probably not a good idea).
I didn’t try using the forbidden characters (I didn’t have anything to put in that box). In any case I imagine there’s an amendment to the Criminal Justice bill going through Parliament that makes doing so an offence punishable by five years in prison or something.