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back to article Hundreds of Mr A N OTHERs discovered on payrolls

If you take a look at employers' PAYE paperwork, the UK's most popular surnames are getting a run for their money - by an army of Mr Unknowns and Mrs Dummys. According to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), employers frequently send in PAYE forms with the wrong data on them, leading to incorrect amounts of tax being taken from their …

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Anonymous Coward

Yes yes

But are your systems robust against errors? Because no matter what you do, there will be errors in them. So instead of wagging the old finger, you migth just reduce the need for exactly correct, always, databases full of people's details. What have you done for us there lately, hm?

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Pint

Error checkers

There are some branches of the Government that do seem to employ error checkers.....although without even a single brain cell of common sense to share between them.

Last year I had a form returned to me, with a covering letter telling me that I had failed to fill in the form correctly because the postcode was missing. My error was putting the postcode in the address box instead of the Postcode box.

This letter was sent to me addressed with the correct postcode.

Aaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh

Icon of alcohol 'cos that is the only thing that makes it better.

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Silver badge
Facepalm

The silliest government form I've seen recently is for passports.

https://passports.ips.gov.uk/epa1r1a/index.aspx?c=1

There's box for email address but it's not long enough. Alongside the online form is the following note:

"We regret that the current paper application form only has space to hold only 30 characters for an email address. This will be resolved in future"

Then just to prove how silly they can be after you fill the form in online it gets posted to you to sign so that you can post it back with your picture and payment.

Electronic filing - HMRC style :-/

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Facepalm

Probably a delaying tactic

so they don't have to deal with you until the next bit of the budget or whatever

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I sometimes have to run through databases to import their data into our new system.

We get several people who haven't been born yet.

"Mr Dead", who lives at "Removed from system" and is banned from entyr to venues for the next 2 years for "RIP"

Yeah. Endless fun.

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah, endless fun, especially if you are testing a banks bad debt collections system and you are using very old data and some dickhead decides to ‘get creative’ with the form letters and accidentally sends the test output to the production printer and little old ladies start receiving letters from the bank telling them that if they don’t pay back the multi-million loan their children will be sold to white slavers!!

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Joke

Oh c'mon AC.

Who hasn't done this? It's a rite of passage, isn't it?

I mean, er...

Yes. What he said. Down with this sort of thing. Careful now.

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Coat

Our free-range days are over.

No doubt being a time traveler and/or undead will become a protected characteristic one of these days.

My coat? It's the one stuffed with a bunch of allicin grenades, carbon bullets, and a video-sighted pistol.

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting approach by the taxman

You'd expect that given HMRC's reputation they'd go straight for the jugular with suggestions of fines for "filling fraudulent documentation" or whatever they like to call it.

Surely the softly-softly encouragement approach doesn't work anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

But these are companies, HMRC loves companies, the bigger they are the nicer HMRC are..... ask Vodafone :)

Employees/self employed however, would be heavily fined for writing 1/l/i instead of 1/l/i

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Apparently it does, according to an article on POM on R4 last night. Extra 15% response rate when letter from IR took the be nice approach.

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Anonymous Coward

might be a bit off-topic

speaking of "errors" in payroll, this remind me of the time when we installed a payroll system at a big organization that was still using the old _book_ system. Many people in HR and accounts were against the implementation of the payroll system but management insisted and it was implemented.

later the management complained to us that our system is "wrong" since it shows that they have above 10,000 workers (don't remember the correct number), while their old paper system was showing an extra 300 workers (again, I don't remember the correct number). So we told them to call their auditors and have things checked.

it turned out that some of the people in accounts and HR were literally pocketing the salaries of 10 or more _virtual_ employees each month plus their own salaries!

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Yag
Trollface

Welcome to the Management.

Does a shepard know the names of all his animals?

Why should it be different for this kind of cattle?

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Bronze badge
Childcatcher

He doesn't even name them

They're counted and sent to market.

Draw your own conclusions...

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Sheep ...

and cattle for that matter, are so closely regulated these days that the shepherd probably does know the stock-number of every single beast, to a level of precision only dreamed of by the Inland Revenue.

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Unhappy

Careful Weeble,

Don't give them ideas or we will all be chipped and ear-tagged by the start of the next financial year!

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J. Doe?

How many John or Jane Does are there in the list?

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Boffin

Given this was talking about the UK, I don't suppose there were many, if any at all.

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Anonymous Coward

so as the forms incorrectly filled in the fines would of made more money for the UK

So as the forms incorrectly filled in the fines would of made more money for the UK. I'm all about freedom of speach etc but if they make a mistake thats is clearly at the level above what is required to run a company then should they not be fined as per the rules or is the tax man taking the vodaphone approach and just ignoreing the problem at hand on the pretext of highlighting the problem so others do not do it!

Either way, is it a common mistake to say your going to fine people for misfilling in forms then don't coz it sure looks that way. Now had they been legit mistakes and the like I'm sure they would of got fined.

--

ANON because of the name

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Hate to be a grammar nazi but...

"have" is the word you are groping for. Would HAVE, not would of. Along with the spelling errors, your instead of you're, and the non-sentences, nobody is likely to actually notice whatever point it is you are trying to make.

ANON because of the bloody spelling?

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Anonymous Coward

TL;DR sortof.

Well, I tried to read the post but my train of thought derailed quite quickly.

Oh, let me rewrite that for you:

Wel i triad to have readified posting posted of begin. And then gov's heimlich manoevre so kinda failed.

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Facepalm

Errors. . . . NOT!!!!

If I remember it correctly, the original “steal the round down error” computer crime was detected when a ‘merkin bank and wanted to know the first and last alphabetical names of their victims^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcustomers because the band had decided to run a marketing campaign saying “our customers, AAAAAAAA to ZZZZZZZZZZ”, only to find that they did have a customer called Mr Zzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, and that he had a considerable balance.

Apparently Mr Zzzzzzzzzz Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz account was where the programmer was saving all the fractions of a cent obtained by rounding down all the calculations.

Hint to crims, don’t get smart with the bogus account names, your name really is John Smith!!

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Anonymous Coward

What an good anecdote, made up by your brain.

Computer geeks' standard reference for this scam is Office Space (2003?).

There is no "original" crime, the oldest known real-world example is from 1993, but it started appearing as a plot in fiction once computers became common (but still strange) to the man in the street --- e.g., in The Sweeney in 1976.

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Don't forget Superman III...

That's how it all started for richard pryor's character... noticing that lots of franctions of a cent tht should've been paid out went back to the company and instead funnelied it into his own account.

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Happy

The most famous fantasy geek crime evah

I knew someone who claimed to have contemplated implementing this particular scam at an Aussie bank in the early 80s when the smaller ones were computerising. The fly in the ointment was getting the money out of the system without anyone noticing. Plus a quick calculation of just how much money the scam would generate would make it kind of stand out at a small regional bank in those days - today I guess you could hide it as a regular EFT to the tax office or the Chairman's green fees.

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I read about the ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ name in a book on computer crime about 25 years ago. The book was very detailed and had names and details for all the perps and the dates of the crimes. Do you remember books, things made from paper that could be borrowed from libraries and bought in shops?

The Salami slicing rounding down is unique in computer since it is the only theft that can be performed on a computer, all the other Salami slicing frauds use computers as part of the system but are dependant on having a computer to do it, i.e. the fraud could just as easily be performed using a manual system.

Richard Pryor character also had access to the banks natural language interface for programming, 's funny how Hollywood thinks all programming languages are programmed in natural English.

The actual rounding down fraud would not be all that difficult to do in Cobol. It's also amazing how much money banks hold in dormant accounts and accounts that were supposed to be closed but were not closed because the account didn't have a zero balance.

Security controls are a lot better now that they were 30 years ago, and I have worked on systems where it was very easy to get a fix applied in a production environment after a problem occurred. And I have even had to recreate some programs where the original source code has been 'lost'. Very convenient if you've hard coded an account number in the interest calculation module!

IMHO the round down salami slice is entirely probable, FFS what bank is going to take a member of staff to court for theft and highlight to the world that their own internal security has failed.

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Facepalm

@Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

<quote>all the other Salami slicing frauds use computers as part of the system but are dependant on having a computer to do it, i.e. the fraud could just as easily be performed using a manual system.</quote>

Insanity strikes again.

What on earth can Herr Krakenfart be on?

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Also, this:

http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/The-Service-Awards-Ceremony.aspx

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Silver badge

there was a BOFH episode

featuring:

A.N. Other

C. Omputer (you mean Chaz!)

and many others, all receiving payment as consultants

great epsiode

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Headmaster

Hyberbole Nazi speaks

The article literally claims that "Unknown" is a more commonly used surname than "Smith"; however only 820 people used "Unknown", and there are more Smiths per square meter in London than that (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of using hyperbole in a complaint about hyperbole).

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Er...but

If the article is saying there are 2121 people in the UK with the wrong name in their PAYE record, and the Office of National Statistics says there are currently 29.1 million people employed I make that a margin of error of 0.007%. Doesn't the country have some more pressing stuff to do with regard to financial problems?

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I've known a few like that

A database full of names that I had to import into another system began with a Mr. 0'Brien (that's a zero instead of a nought, as a colleague put it) and a few other numerical funnies, before reaching the sensible names. Easily fixed up of course.

There again, the taxman may have difficulty taking Mr. 2illiams to court.so why bother fixing it up?

At least until Mr. Ali from Egypt with a tax code of "Paid in cash" gets into the copy submitted to HMRC.

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Pirate

Umm

Did HMRC refuse to accept taxes levied on Mr Unknown or Ms XXXXXXX?

Thought not.

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Anonymous Coward

?

So the tax office have a record, and that means the tax got deducted. They got their cut, why exactly are they complaining.

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Because dirty data is always annoying to deal with.

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Anonymous Coward

At a previous finance broker, names such as:

Mr Glass Cock

Mr Fucking Wanker

Lived in our CRM database - hilarious to show new starters, not so funny when a parent calls in to complain her 12yr old picked up the letter.

Still you gotta laugh and snigger ;)

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Bronze badge

@The_Noble_Rot: If the real John Smith is working for a company which is reporting him to HMRC as being Mr Unknown Name, what does HMRC think John Smith's income is ... in terms of paying him benefits? Either he could be getting unemployment benefit (he's not employed, but Unknown Name is) or could be working a second job without paying the higher rate of tax he normally would. Also, the Student Loan people won't be getting any loan repayments against John Smith's loan, since it's Unknown Name with the salary.

Not to mention immigration status or indeed arrest warrants: maybe Mr U Name isn't legally entitled to work here at all, or there's a warrant for his arrest so using his real name could get him arrested - though he'd probably pick a better alias in that case...

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Joke

Oft Considered.

I've often considered changing my name to 'DROP DATABASE'. Wonder if the HMRC could cope with that?

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