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Ridiculous Reference Numbers - UK Government!

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Ridiculous Reference Numbers - UK Government!

Old 27th Jul 2018, 11:12
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Ridiculous Reference Numbers - UK Government!

What is it with the UK Civil Service and reference numbers?

I'm thinking at present mainly of HMRC, brought on by completing tax returns for myself and for my 1-man company.

To pay PAYE/NIC, HMRC makes me use a number with 3 letters and 11 digits. There are 100,000,000,000 possible permutations of the digits alone.​ How many companies are on the UK register? Dunno, but sure as hell it's not that many.

And guess what? To pay my corporation tax, there's another number. WHY, FFS? This one also has 11 digits, but only 2 letters.

And when they send you letters, usually with wildly inaccurate figures, there's yet another number called a tax reference which has one of the numbers already mentioned but preceded with 3 digits, just in case there are 999 companies with the same reference number as one of the 100 billion reference numbers already in use.

It's just absurd. My company has a registration number, issued by Companies House. It is absolutely unique, and with its 8 digits there are enough numbers for 99,999,999 companies. Do we really have that many in England and Wales? Why can't these morons just use that number for everything to do with my company?

And then there's my personal affairs. I have had an absolutely unique reference from the day I was born, as has every UK citizen. What's wrong with that as a reference for every single interaction I have with the UK Government and its departments? Nothing, of course, but these idiots can't think logically; they just love inventing absurd reference numbers.

The benefit to us, as private citizens, is that this plethora of stupid numbers means that the Government is completely unable to establish the database it would love to have, whereby they simply enter a single reference number to bring up everything they have on a citizen, tax, NHS records, Police records, being rude about the Queen records, you name it, everything.

Hang about; the STASI managed that quite well, so now that I think about it, long may this stupidity continue.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 12:14
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There is actually a logical (pun intended) reason for so many characters in the ID. It allows for error checking. Some of those digits will be a checksum, so that if you enter one or more digits wrongly they will indicate an error rather than accept you as being someone else.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 13:24
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My NHS Number used to be in the form "ABCD123" back in the 80's... I am sure it has changed since!
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 14:26
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Originally Posted by flash8 View Post
My NHS Number used to be in the form "ABCD123" back in the 80's... I am sure it has changed since!
Indeed - I knew (and still do) my NHS number off by heart - then they changed it . . .
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 14:59
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Originally Posted by Sallyann1234 View Post
There is actually a logical (pun intended) reason for so many characters in the ID. It allows for error checking. Some of those digits will be a checksum, so that if you enter one or more digits wrongly they will indicate an error rather than accept you as being someone else.
So what happens when the "someone else" - ie the rightful owner of the number you wrongly entered - tries to use it ?
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 15:21
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Or how about the government website which required a password "containing at least zero non-alpha numeric characters"
Which would not accept ANY password.
"We know, it's an IT fault"
Gosh, I'd never have guessed that.
And we pay them for that!
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 15:26
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
So what happens when the "someone else" - ie the rightful owner of the number you wrongly entered - tries to use it ?
​​​​​The wrong number that you entered will not be anyone's valid number.
To be precise there is ​​​​a very small chance of it being a valid number. With a few details, the statistical chance of it being valid can be calculated.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 16:29
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Originally Posted by Sallyann1234 View Post
​​​​​The wrong number that you entered will not be anyone's valid number.
To be precise there is ​​​​a very small chance of it being a valid number. With a few details, the statistical chance of it being valid can be calculated.
I only asked because you alluded to that very possibility in your first post !

Originally Posted by Sallyann1234 View Post
rather than accept you as being someone else.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 16:40
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
I only asked because you alluded to that very possibility in your first post !
If your number is 1234 and you enter 1235 "they" would think you were Bloggs Mr K. However if your number is 123410 and you enter 123510 "they" would know the number is invalid as 1235 is 11 not 10.

Now tell me how the number in you credit card pin work!
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 16:54
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It's been a long week,
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 20:05
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I have to deal with a few government departments and the reference number/pass word issue.

I can categorically state that there are absolutely no circumstances I would employ a civil/ex civil servant at all.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 20:38
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The NI number that I was given when I became a 15 year old Boy Entrant in 1952, is the same number that I quote to the pensions lot in Newcastle today.

And they are still paying me.

Though not a lot.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 20:46
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I have also been surprised over the recent years as to the length of security numbers. On an idle day I found out that a certain bank required me to identify myself to a precision of the Avogadro number, ie the number of atoms in a small lump (a mole) of a substance.

It is futile to point out to the proles on the phone that the number they require from me is more than the population of the world. One cannot argue with a closed mind. I get the checksum reason, but if alpha-numeric strings were not so long we would not need a checksum.

Today I was asked to type in a 20 digit numeric for a SIM identity. It included 7 consecutive zeros. I can only assume that this was a computer generated requirement as most humans would have realised that the zeros could be concatenated. Except for computer nerds like my ex, who would be quite content as a software engineer devising impossibly complex codes for normal humans to enter into industrial software, and then being surprised when her Normal boss told her to lighten up.

I used to live in an Asian country where my ID number of 9 alpha numerics was sufficient to identify me to the entire databases of the state. We all learned our own IDs and it worked superbly. The big difference being that this government in Asia is peopled by individuals of high numeracy. Unlike some Western countries that spring to mind...
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 21:14
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Originally Posted by Planet Basher View Post
I have to deal with a few government departments and the reference number/pass word issue.

I can categorically state that there are absolutely no circumstances I would employ a civil/ex civil servant at all.
It is no shock that HM CS has a high union membership which becomes makes it difficult to dismiss them and people stay on because no business will ever touch them.
But the worst thing is they think they are very productive.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 23:10
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It's in the nature of bureaucracies to invent unnecessary numbering schemes. Each department or group thinks its own is uniquely superior.

The organization that does telecom standards (ITU) has three completely separate international dialling schemes, one for the phone network (E.164), one for the now-forgotten telex network (F.69) and one for the never-happened international packet data network (X.121 iirc). There's no significant difference between them, except they use different numbers for the same countries.

And don't even get me going on country codes in general.
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Old 27th Jul 2018, 23:22
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Having lived in Spain for a while, I was impressed to see that all my Spanish friends had a single identity card and number that was theirs for life. This number covered everything from income tax, to health care to opening a bank account. Everybody knew their identity number by heart, and when required would quote it instantaneously. Simple.
And one other question. Why, when we renew our UK passports do we need a new passport number, just as, after 10 years, I have just finally memorized mine?
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 00:48
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Originally Posted by n5296s View Post
It's in the nature of bureaucracies to invent unnecessary numbering schemes. Each department or group thinks its own is uniquely superior.

The organization that does telecom standards (ITU) has three completely separate international dialling schemes, one for the phone network (E.164), one for the now-forgotten telex network (F.69) and one for the never-happened international packet data network (X.121 iirc). There's no significant difference between them, except they use different numbers for the same countries.

And don't even get me going on country codes in general.
As the old saying goes: "Standards are a good thing - we should have as many of them as possible".
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 01:04
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The WTO takes it to a new level but it is logical as a lot of exporters who have formally only traded with the EU will learn in 2019/20. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tariffs_e/tariff_data_e.htm


Customs codes and standardization

Products in the databases are identified using the World Customs Organization’s internationally agreed “Harmonized System” (HS).Under the system, the broadest categories of products are identified by two-digit “chapters” (e.g. 04 is dairy products, eggs and other edible animal products). These are then sub-divided by adding more digits: the higher the number of digits, the more detailed the categories. For example the four-digit code or “heading” 0403 is a group of products derived from milk. At six digits, 0403.10 is the “sub-heading” for yoghurt; at the eight-digit level, 0403.10.11 could be low-fat yoghurt “tariff line”.
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 19:14
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I can categorically state that there are absolutely no circumstances I would employ a civil/ex civil servant at all.
About 10 years ago, I engaged a man to be our office administrator. I selected him because he came from a middle-level management job in the DHSS (as I think it was then known), with superb references from his managers. He was about 55, and had taken early retirement with a handsome pension for life, and a lump sum that he bought a new BMW with. He was quite cheery and easy to get on with, necessary in a small office.

He was also totally, absolutely useless. He could not handle a computer keyboard, let alone understand simple Office programmes (Word etc.) He had no conception of managing a filing system. He was abrupt to the point of rudeness when clients called us, from habit I guess, largely because he regarded these calls an an intrusion on his day. Simple office cash management (ie an imprest account book and cash box) was completely beyond him.

He was with us for about 3 months while we did our best to teach him the simple routines we needed him to carry out. And then one day I asked him to buy some stamps, and gave him the company card to do it with. He looked at me blankly, and asked "Where do you get stamps?"

That was it; I gave him pay in lieu of a week's notice and asked him never to come back.

About 2 months after that I came across him, happy as a sandboy, working in Tesco stacking shelves. We had a friendly conversation, during which it became clear that he had found his comfort level of competence.
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Old 28th Jul 2018, 19:50
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Originally Posted by old,not bold View Post
lump sum that he bought a new BMW with
If I'd been aware of that before interview there wouldn't have been an interview.
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