Politeness doesn’t have to be taxing



My 2012 income tax assessment from the Singapore authorities came through today, and while I never feel exceptionally joyful when I get a bill, today’s notice was ameliorated by the message underneath the required amount.

You wouldn’t receive a notice from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs thanking you for helping to maintain the United Kingdom’s infrastructure. There might be a stern warning telling you that you’re probably a criminal and you should pay more tax, or a note telling you that even if you don’t have any tax liabilities in the UK (like me) you still have to file a return or pay a £100 fine. For Singapore to be thanking me for my contribution to their treasury is so polite as to be shocking.

Especially given Singaporeans’ reputation for curt abruptness. If the notice had read "Pay now – not can, not can stay" I’d not have been surprised. The Inland Revenue Authority’s unexpected politeness throws a grim light on everyone else’s manners. My bank doesn’t thank me for all the cash I keep in it (unless you count the derisory interest they pay). My payslip doesn’t conclude with a hearty thanks for all the work I’ve done in the past month. And it’s not like I get a cheery note from my landlord when he gets his rent on time.

Maybe I need to start a passive aggressive campaign of my own. I can start including a note to my landlord, saying "no, think nothing of this". Email my boss every month, saying "there’s no need to thank me, the money is its own reward". And stand around in the bank, idly speculating on what my money is doing in there.

All of which are probably misguided. If I tell my landlord not to think of my rent, maybe he’ll decide to stop thinking I’ve paid, and kick me out. If I take the piss out of my employer, they may only see the funny side when it comes to my dismissal, and if anyone should be idly speculating in banks, it’s probably the traders, not the customers.

Still, having discovered that the Inland Revenue Authority has its own Twitter account (with almost a thousand tax-related tweets) I had to thank them. It’s the polite thing to do, after all.


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