Friday, November 17, 2006

One for you, nineteen for me

(another rant brought to you by the combined Cat Marsters and Kate Johnson broadcasting services. Tax professionals may wish to look away now. Those in a position to change the Government's view on taxation, please--snort--read)

In my favour, I no longer have to work with pounds, shillings, and pence. But I do have to work with people who believe tax is a privilege...for people with No Fucking Lives.

Sorry for the language. But after being hounded and persecuted for taking an internal flight with no previous intentions to blow anyone up (although by the time I got home I was feeling pretty murderous), and now learning of all the hoops I have to jump through just for being honest enough to pay tax...I'm wondering if it's such a bright idea to be honest.

If you are a British citizen over the age of sixteen and have one or more children, you can earn shitloads of Tax Credits and other benefits, whether you work or not. If you have no children but earn under £15,000 a year, you can also claim credits. But only if you're over 25. Which does lead me to wonder if those bright sparks in the Treasury really do have their heads up their own bottoms. By being honest and sensible and not sprogging before you can afford it, financially or mentally, you're losing out. By being such a loser that by 25 you haven't even earned enough to pay basic rent and utilities, you get money back from the government. And, rather crucially, I feel, by being 16 and having a baby, you get all your bills paid, a place to live, and actual cash in the bank.

So here am I, using my brain like a sucker.

After attending a seminar on tax for writers, I'm left with the feeling I ought to go back eight years, flunk my A levels, and get pregnant at 16. Because as it stands, I have to fill out three forms, every year, for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Service, and one for the IRS of the USA. And I don't even earn enough to pay tax. Not even close. Unless, by close, you mean 18% of the lowest annual tax threshold (yes, that's really my income for the tax year so far. buy more of my books. Save an impoverished author). And yet...

There are these forms. Which employ a whole new language. I thought I knew what words like 'determination', 'income' and 'honest bloody citizen' meant. Okay, maybe not the last one, but I'm starting to see Robin Hood's point of view.

If tax is a privilege, could you make it more fun? How about making it bearable? How about making it a little more pleasant than having bamboo shoots planted under your fingernails? Because right now, shovelling cow dung sounds like more of a privilege. Pretending I've never heard of HMRC sounds like utter bliss.

I'm not sure I can fully convey how persecuting it is to be an author too poor to afford an accountant--and believe me, there are very, very many of us--with so many intimidating things to worry about. If I get this wrong I can be fined, or I can actually be legally persecuted. And until I earn more (taxable) money, I can't afford anyone to explain it to me. Is this really the state of a modern Western economy? Apart from the rather patchy services of the NHS, I'm struggling to see what my taxes might be paying for. Childcare for teenage mothers? A pension which the government freely admits will never support me? The road outside my door that's full of holes? The war I'd have voted against if I'd been offered the choice? How about the education that left me unable to fill in a tax return?

Although I see Mr Blair is wearing some mighty fine suits these days. And I note he doesn't travel with Ryanair.

Sherwood Forest. It's looking mighty fine to me.

I need to be patient, and I need to be brave; need to discover how I need to behave. I'll find out the answers when I know how to ask--but I speak a different language, and everybody's talking too fast!--KT Tunstall

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:29 am

    I have to admit. I didn't read that. I got something...something...taxes...

    I'm sorry about your taxes. :)

    I didn't want to confuse myself LOL I have a hard enough time understanding our taxes :( I just know if there's a way to screw it up, a country will usually do it!