Tackling a taxing matter

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
A frustrated Liz Breslin has a taxing time ringing Inland Revenue.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. Due to higher-than-usual call demand, we cannot connect your call. Goodbye." 


Goodbye? How can you just say goodbye? I'm relying on you keeping me on hold for at least 25 minutes with some tinny elevator music versions of Kiwi classics so that I can multi-task and write my column and do my dishes and put off doing any actual taxes and still feel like I'm achieving things. Which, after all, is the entire point of life. Achieving.

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. So I can put you through to the right place, I need to know briefly what you're calling about."

I don't have that number. That three-letter acronym document lodgement thing. I mean I think you sent it out to me but someone might have used it to light the fire and I can't remember my login because I've been using different passwords for things because that apparently makes my information safe and secure and I think I wrote down the passwords somewhere but someone probably burned that bit of paper, too.

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. There is a wait time to speak to a customer service specialist."

Of course there is. Because who could possibly predict that there will be more calls the week before taxes are due, the way it has always been with humans and deadlines since ... wait! When? Since the Egyptians invented horology and 24 hours in a day? Since the Americans in the Civil War set deadlines around their prison camps and shot the crossers on sight? Since the IRD started out as the Land Tax Department in 1878, perhaps.

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. There is currently a wait time of between 15 and 22 minutes. You won't lose your place in the queue."

I'll be honest. I'm not going to wait with that wait time. I'll probably make a coffee and browse the internet because it's not worth starting something else in between 15 and 22 minutes. But then I'll remember that I have to hang out the washing and I'll leave my phone unattended and step outside and how's that big sky today and ... oh ... one missed call.

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. Due to higher-than-usual call demand we cannot connect your call. Goodbye."

No! Please. Don't hang up on me. I'm not going to be one of those shouty callers. Not passive-aggressive, even. And I don't have any of those difficult questions where you and I both end up reading from the same section of your website at the same time. I'll be super polite. And I'm happy to be verified by your scary robot voice system, even though everyone here laughs at my posh vowels when I say October. I'll say October. I'll say anything you like.

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. Please choose from one of the following options.

"Speak to someone. Speak to someone. Speak to someone.

"Welcome to Inland Revenue. How can I help?"

And she does. And she's so patient and polite and spells things out and I read them back and she tells me in little words the things I need to do. She's professional, empathetic, innovative, passionate and focused, just like the careers-centre section of the IRD website promises.

OK, I don't know about the innovation or the passion. But imagine not just having to do your own taxes but spending your waking hours talking to everyone else about theirs. Imagine what that might do to innovation and passion. I wonder if the holding music is piped through the call centre. I wonder if there's anything else I should be wondering about or focusing on right now. Oh right. That's right. Don't step over that internet browse line. Focus. Deadline. Taxes. Now.


'Hello, you've reached Matthew, tax collector for Rome and long haired friend of Jesus. I'm out. We're all out. On strike'.

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