You may recall that I posted an article some time ago about my problems trying to repay my student loan – a problem caused not by the shortage of money, but by the Student Loans Agency being unwilling to actually take the money. I wrote to them and offered to pay. They basically told me to wait (and keep collecting interest) until the end of the year, or jump through a series of hoops to prove I can pay.
At this point, my accountant (in the course of doing battle with the dreaded tax return) told me that this was a tax headache and should be disposed of as quickly as possible. I forwarded the letter I’d been sent and asked for advice. My accountant rang the agency and managed to get them to actually send payment details. Clearly, people who have accountants are important. I never knew I was important before.
Let’s say that again. I needed to get an accountant, who I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t needed assistance with the tax return, to pry some useful payment details out of them.
(To be fair, someone who can afford to pay an accountant can probably afford to pay his debts.)
OK … so I followed the instructions and paid off all, but a tiny portion of my debt. I was told to wait and they would send me the final bill. And I waited. And waited … and nothing happened. Eventually, I checked with my accountant again and asked for details. They explained I had to call the agency myself this time.
So I did. And they told me, after much hemming and hawing and security verification, that I owed the staggeringly preposterously enormously gigantic colossal sum of … £9.87.
And I paid on the spot.
The good news is that I no longer have any student loans.
The middling news is that I have to call them again next week to get a certificate to prove it.
The bad news is that the whole system is designed to make it hard to actually pay.
It seems to be remarkably easy to avoid paying. If you don’t earn over a certain amount, you don’t have to pay at all. If you do and you work for a big company, it gets handled by the same people who arrange for you to pay your taxes. If you pretty much work for yourself, as I do, it’s a lot harder to honour your obligations. Quite frankly, I was tempted to simply forget it. There doesn’t seem to be any enforcement system. (Which, given how few people find a job that can pay quickly, is probably not such a bad thing.)
But here is my point. I don’t like being in debt. If I have to take a loan, I want to pay it back as quickly as possible. And yet … paying a greater sum each month or even paying it off in one lump seems to be made difficult. What is the point of a system that hands out money freely, yet doesn’t even try to collect it?
And then we wonder why we have economic trouble.