Previous month:
February 2009
Next month:
April 2009

March 2009

Your British tax at work!

I am a self-employed freelance journalist. Because I am an American expat working in the UK, I must file and pay British self-employment taxes and make contributions to National Insurance (universal healthcare). I pay my taxes and I pay them on time. I paid my 2007-2008 taxes in January, well ahead of the Jan. 31, 2009 deadline. So it was with great surprise that I received a bill from HM Revenue & Customs today, claiming that I incorrectly figured my taxes, and that I now owe a further balance. But the real shocker was the amount owed: £0.01.  Yes, that's right. I am indebted to Her Majesty's government in the amount of 1 Penny Sterling. That's about 1.5 U.S. cents. I'm gobsmacked!

Pennytax  To make this story even more ridiculous, HM Revenue & Customs printed and posted the bill to me by 2nd Class Royal Mail. A 2nd Class domestic UK stamp costs £0.24 pence. And that's not even counting the cost of the paper, envelope, pre-addressed return evenlope, ink and manpower required to send this notice. I originally filed and paid my taxes online; they have my e-mail address, so why didn't they just send me an e-mail to inform me of this penny?  And now they expect me to spend a further £0.24 pence to mail them a check (cheque) for £0.01!! 

The bill does note that because the amount owed is small, I may ignore the bill and pay the penny on my next taxes; BUT doing so may subject me to late fees.

As a British taxpayer, I'm outraged at this waste of tax money!  It may not sound like a lot, but it all ads up. If HM Revenue sends out 100 similar penny bills, they've wasted at least £24 just to collect 24 pennies! I don't know about you all but this ticks me off to no end. Click on the image to see my tax bill!

UPDATE:  I pitched this story to a few London newspapers but I haven't heard back from anybody. Oh well.  I intend to pay the bill later this week IN CASH, in person at the Post Office. I'll be damned if I'm going to waste a good stamp to mail them a penny check. Besides, I only have 1st class, 36p stamps!

Restaurant review: Chilango

Chilango  The Islington, Upper Street restaurant previously known as Mucho Mas reopened this weekend as Chilango. It opened with much fanfare including Mexican wrestlers entertaining the crowd from atop a yellow double-decker Corona bus. Best of all, Chilango gave away free burritos on Friday and Saturday. Mr. Crab stood in line on Friday for about 20 minutes for his prize: a steak burrito with all the fixings including rice, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, mild salsa, and cheese. I had heard good things about this place, including comparisons to Chipotle in the United States.

Unfortunately, the reviews were highly overrated.  Maybe it was first-day kinks, but I was sorely disappointed. For starters, the meat was a very poor quality mix of tough chunks of grizzle and fat and a so-so marinade. The black beans were ok, but the rice was dry. And the mass-produced, industrial tortillas were rubbery and flavorless. I do give high kudos to the guacamole, which tasted like my own home-made recipe!  But overall, the Chilango burrito was bland and average; the salsa is desperately in need of more cilantro (that's 'coriander' for you Brits), cumin and onions.

I'll give them a few weeks and try again. But Chilango's first impression failed to make an impact on this Mexican-American expat!


Cafe Pacifico (Covent Garden): Better than average. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Chiquito (Soho): Average Tex-Mex chain restaurant. 2 out of 5 stars

Chilango (Islington and Fleet Street): Overrated. Average. 2 out of 5 stars.

Desperados (Angel Islington):  Absolutely horrendous. 1 out of 5 stars

Mucho Mas (CLOSED, now Chilango): Average. 2 out of 5 stars

Puerto Mexico (Syndenham): Average at best. 2 out of 5 stars

TAQUERIA (Notting Hill). EXCELLENT. 4 out of 5 stars. Best authentic Mexican food in London!

Texas Embassy (Trafalgar Square). Pretty good Tex-Mex restaurant. 3 out of 5 stars

Tortilla (Angel Islington):  Rather quite good! Equivelent to Chipolte in USA. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Cool Chile Company (Borough Market) A  market stall in London's famous foodie Borough Market that sells authentic imported Mexican ingredients including dried poblano chiles, fresh tortillas, mole sauce and mole-making kits, Mexican chocolate, black beans, tomatillos and more.

**About the ratings: 1 is the worst. 5 is my mom's cooking!