Lucy Mangan: Confused? You will be

The world is too complicated. Too complicated by far. I reach this conclusion every year as I open my tax return and do battle with instructions such as "If your hat size exceeded both your income and your expenditure on stamps between March and four donkeys this year, complete section 432(B)(iii-xv) in blood, unless you are O Negative, in which case include payments in kind, bank heist proceeds, rental income from your shoes and use pencil" until I retire weeping from the fray.

Last year, I ended up ringing the helpline and positing the existence of a long-ago visit by aliens with a prejudice against carbon-based life forms, who sowed the seeds that flourished into a variety of institutions, systems and practices with which we could destroy ourselves from within. A system designed by humans for the benefit of humans but which no human can understand flies in the face of reason.

I had higher hopes this year, as there seems to be a pleasing trend towards simplification in other areas which habitually conspire to confuse me. Railway fares, for example. In the past 12 months I have had occasion to book train tickets on the various lines which, theoretically, link our major cities, all of which have involved telephone conversations about SuperBusinessPlusWithWiFiAndLapdancer tickets, BusinessSuperPlusWithWiFiAndSandwich tickets, SaverPlebs (no seats, they hang you on hooks), SuperSaverPlebs (they hang you on hooks on the outside of the train), the parsing of whose conditions would defeat Chomsky, never mind the average punter. Now, apparently, there will be three types of ticket category - Advance, Off Peak and Anytime fares. Doubtless these will turn out to translate loosely as Too Far In Advance To Be Of Any Practical Use, Thursdays 11.10-11.12am and Payable In Gold Bullion, but still, it is a step in the right direction.

Then there's the simplifying effect the credit crunch is having. Can't afford rising petrol/fuel/food prices? Walk! Freeze! Starve! Say what you like about fiscal meltdown, there's no denying it saves a lot of wearisome decisionmaking. Why, only the other day, Toryboy and I were considering moving house, so I rang the people who advanced me the money on this current one and asked if I could have some more. And instead of taking up valuable time running through 82 different types of discounted, offset, capped, lemon-scented, twin carburettor, twisting-pike-with-triple-axel tracker loans, the conversation was brief and to the point.

THEM: Are you really, really, really, really, really rich?

ME: No.

THEM: Is your partner really, really, really, really, really, rich?

ME: No.

THEM: Are your parents really, really, real-

ME: I see where you're going with this. Let me usefully interrupt you. No.

THEM: Are any of your grandparents really, really, really rich, likely to die soon and leave you everything?

ME: My last surviving grandparent died in 2005. She left me half a bag of sweets and a Harry Lauder LP.

THEM: Would have been good enough last year - we once secured a £3m dotcom business loan against a collection of Jimmy Shand - but not today. Goodbye.

But alas, these examples bespeak mere happy coincidence rather than a sweeping trend towards straightforwardness. So I struggle on. Can anyone tell me whether taper relief can apply to inherited music hall LPs retrospectively, or can I move straight on to section 91(d) - calculating wine gum allowance?

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