John Cole has what he describes as a small village shop called Sycamore Stores at Merlins Bridge, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. He got fined by HMRC because his Vat return was two days late. He wondered via email where he stood in not paying, as he reasoned: “When they start paying me for collecting taxes and my time involved dealing with it then they can fine me. Would I be within my rights to send a bill + Vat to them as is it not the law to be paid if doing work?”

It’s a fine theory, but as I said to John, I think the short answer is no (although I pointed out that I do not have legal training so if anyone knows better, please get in touch).

I think that, if you could bill them, then someone would have thought of it before now and done so, and word would have got around.

I just think the Big Boys have got you all there. Passed laws and such. Can’t even blame it on Europe.

John wrote back: “I know it’s crazy. I can employ a bookkeeper and claim that as an expense yet can’t claim for my own time.”

It falls into that category called paperwork. Also known as red tape. It is reckoned that small businesses spend more than 33 hours a month on internal business administration. The Federation of Small Businesses did a survey which was published in May that said more than half of those consulted (55%) said their company’s growth was being held back by the amount of time they had to dedicate to paperwork.

Accounting tasks, such as paying suppliers, take the longest time, followed by business banking and tax. So tax is a biggie and you are in good company John.

I offered to print his opinion/questions - and told him I could already hear the whole readership muttering in agreement with him.