A sim­ple form of direct tax­a­tion, intu­itive: you work a week, you pay a pro­por­tion of your week’s wages. You work a month, then you pay a pro­por­tion of that month. No cal­cu­la­tions at the end of the year, no need to keep a piggy bank to put it by. It goes before you know it’s there.
A bureau­cracy lies behind it, a bureau­cracy of rules, codes and tiny slips of paper, where indi­vid­u­als are iden­ti­fied by name, address, num­ber and bank account, employ­ers by name and code, and amounts and jus­ti­fi­ca­tions are num­bered: 620 means basic rate. The slip is cov­ered in a jum­ble of num­bers, not all read­able. Part human, part machine. In part a story of my past, and in part noth­ing to do with me.

BEEFEATER STEAK HOUSES — I was a bar­maid, later pro­moted to a wait­ress. I was a veg­e­tar­ian.
03/01/97 — The first pay­check of the new year. Those two hours of over­time counted as my New Year’s Eve bonus.
HOURLY RATE £3.2800 – not much of a liv­ing wage.
DO NOT DESTROY – I took this seri­ously.

There are plans afoot for a new bureau­cracy, an updated com­puter sys­tem enabling ‘RTI’ (Real Time Infor­ma­tion) so that deduc­tions are reported by employ­ers to the HM Rev­enue and Cus­toms as they hap­pen, not at the end of the year – the idea being to avoid over– and under-payment. This new com­puter sys­tem is a new a grey media you wont often think about, but which will re-write your payslip.