Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The information ages is truly a remarkable thing. It has certainly enriched my life in ways too numerable to mention here. But I never really grasped the impact that it has on modern life until the last couple of days.

I am preparing my documents prior to lodging my tax return. As I have a leased vehicle, there are certain documents associated with reportable fringe benefits tax which also need to be submitted. I found an error in mine, a small descrepancy in the mileage over the year. Ordinarily a difference of a couple of hundred kilometres of mileage is neither here nor there. This difference is slightly unusual, in that it means being either under or over a 25000km threshold. As it stands I am under, and subject to pay 20% tax. If the discrepancy is corrected I am only subject to 11%. You can understand that I might feel strongly that the error be put right.

The starting mileage held by my leasing company is 14434kms. The starting mileage according to my records is 14178kms. 256kms. Hardly worth bothering about? Those 256kms mean I have to pay an extra $2000 in tax. Still think it's hardly worth bothering about?

I would never have picked up this difference had I not scrupulously (some would unkindly say pedanticall and anally) kept meticulous records every time I filled up with petrol and retained the printed receipt. When I first began keeping records I was cruelly mocked and treated with no small amount of derision. In fact when I read the notice from my leasing company I was disheartened to see that I would have a large tax liability, all for the want of a measily 78kms. Or roughly 5 litres of fuel. From my home to the CBD and back twice. A trifling amount.

Luckily my fiance Kirrily (Hi Kirrily! Look! I am on teh intarwebs!!!!111elevnty) is not so easily dissuaded by these setbacks. She is very inventive about finding ways around procedures and policies. Some would say she is downright sneaky and deceitful. Not me though. Gosh no.

So Kirrily examined my records closely and discovered the discrepancy, and also the receipt proving it! Hurrah we are saved! Not quite, the receipt is printed on thermal paper and has faded badly. It is still legible with the naked eye, but refuses to show up in a scan or photocopy. Machines see right through it, like some kind of zombie. Or maybe vampire. Whatever, I have the physical evidence backing up my claim.

You would think correcting this error would be as simple as advising my leasing company, who advise my company HR, who fix up the statement and make sure I don't end up paying too much tax. After all, I have the receipt, printed with figures which came from me in the first place anyway. Not so.

Neither the leasing company nor my companys HR departments are contactable in person. They are only contactable electronically. Which means I can't show them the receipt. And there is no electronic evidence supporting my claim. Subsequently I am having a very difficult time proving my claim.

So - and this is my point here - they are valuing VIRTUAL evidence above PHYSICAL evidence. Evidence which exists solely and a series of 1's and 0's within a computer system are regarded as more correct than the actual piece of paper from which the figure was derived! And the living breathing human who provided it! Even the telephone is regarded as a piece of technology too firmly rooted in the meatspace to utilise as a medium for communications, EMAIL is the preferred method. And so half of our correspondence is consumed with correcting misunderstandings arising from previous emails!

I need to lie down for a little while. Catch some virtual ZZZZZ's.


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