This past week a lot of my time and energy seems to have been taken up with money matters. Kev did contract work as an engineer perhaps two to three days a week for a number of companies. Within weeks of his death I got an avalanche …OK three… letters from HMRC. The Inland Revenue are not nice, kindly people- that just isn’t their job. The letters spelt out in no uncertain terms that I was now responsible for calculating how much tax Kev owed for 15-16 and submitting the self-assessment form online and paying the subsequent bill. The letters used language like as next of kin you are the legal representative for the deceased. They informed me that I might face prosecution and that I would incur penalties if I did not act promptly. To be fair, one of the letters did start off with we are aware this may be a difficult time but that didn’t then stop it from going on to address me with the sort of language that implied they felt me capable of criminal activity and were out to get me.
Worse still, when I looked through Kev’s accounts and papers I just couldn’t make head or tail of it all, he worked for several different companies, had invoices, expenses, mileage, payments made and payments due. I had to chase it all up, and while some of the companies he dealt with were extremely helpful, others just didn’t provide me with information I needed. Add to this the fact I was dazed and in shock, only had four weeks leave from work, spent the first fortnight arranging a funeral and dealing with all the other paperwork that a death involves, and was sleeping very badly - to say I was overwhelmed was an understatement! After a couple of very sleepless nights worrying about the tax return, I decided to get an accountant. Despite the cost, it was a good decision, there was still a lot of work as I had to provide a lot of the information but they knew what needed to be done and advised me on what information was needed and where to find it as well as then completing the forms.
However, an additional problem then presented itself in that Kev had an account that he drew on to pay the annual tax bill. Because this account was in his sole name, I didn’t have access to it and had to apply through probate to access the funds to pay the tax bill. This also involved a lot of filling in forms. Shortly after the funeral I was contacted by a solicitor from the funeral company and he quoted me nearly four thousand pounds to complete the probate forms. I decided however that I could complete probate on my own and so for quite a while I would come home from work, cook a meal and then work on the probate forms. No, it wasn’t great. Yes, I felt I was going mad. Yesterday I went to Manchester to attend the probate hearing and swear on the holy text of my choice (that would be the bible then…how quaint that they still do that, huh?) The whole thing was less formal than I expected and they were so nice to me that I had to cry in the toilets afterwards.
So far so good, but still the tax bill, which is several thousand pounds, has to be paid by 31st of January or I face a fine, and the letter of administration granted by the court won’t arrive for ten working days. Around the time of Kev’s death, I had a savings bond mature, and what I did was pay this into my current account to pay for the funeral and have a cushion for any other contingencies, but I hadn’t realised at that point that I wouldn’t be able to access Kev’s savings and hadn’t thought about the tax bill. Luckily I have just about enough to pay and hopefully not go overdrawn if I am very careful this month – but still it has shocked me just how quickly things such as the funeral, various other expenses and this tax bill has eaten away at the “safety cushion” in the current account. Our household income is now more than halved, I bring home after tax just under 1,500 a month (partly because I pay extra to buy back years on my pension, a decision I may need to rethink) and one son is still a needy student.Walking through Manchester reflecting that I must try to draw on savings as little as possible, I couldn’t help noticing how many people sleeping rough –– many more than there seemed to be only a few years ago. I do need to be frugal but at least I have a wage, a home and savings and it is more than some people do.