Taxing Times


It’s done. It’s done. My tax is done.

I feel like I need a song to celebrate this momentous occasion. I’m not sure whether it would be disco or blues though – as this moment of joy has been preceded by three weeks of angst and stress.

Every year, in the final weeks of April (strangely, just after my birthday) I go into total meltdown. It’s not age-related angst; it’s tax.

For the last 20 years or so, my tax has been due mid-May. You would think that over the years I would have implemented a streamlined system to make this feature of my post-birthday world an effortless annual task – something I’d do while waiting for the washing to finish on a Tuesday morning.

How hard can it be? I just need to collate tax related documents and present the data in a form that convinces the accountant (and tax office) that I was somehow carrying on a profitable enterprise for the financial year – and yet, I avoid it.

Actually, I can honestly say I hate it. I would prefer a day of root canal to doing my tax.

Which doesn’t make sense. Sure, it is mind-numbingly boring – finding invoices and statements and loading all the data in a spreadsheet or accounting programme – but a lot of things in life are dull and have to be done. I spend a lot of my working life doing data entry that is not too different.

But somehow, the data of tax seems to carry meaning. I always thought I hated it because it reminded me of not only how little money I made but how poorly I was fulfilling my potential. The numbers would scream to me, “Well if you just applied yourself a little bit more consistently then your income may start nudging the average.”

But in recent years, when my income has been getting almost average, the April-May meltdown continued.

I was pondering my tax-related angst earlier this week in my “Live without Stress” meditation class. The evening’s meditation asked us to reflect on a situation that was stressful and reflect on what it is about that situation that we’re attached to.

So, what do I want but am not getting and it’s making me stressed?

I initially thought that it’s the fear of not coping with a tax bill but I’ve received a few refunds in recent years (and suspect I’ll get a refund this year too) so it’s not just about money.

I’m now starting to think I associate tax with my competence. While I’ve been submitting tax returns as a self-employed person for over 20 years, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.

Every year I seem to get a call from the latest 22 year-old junior accounting consultant asking me for some new document or detail I’ve never heard of.

“Could you forward us the payroll exceptions reconciliation?”

“Um, sure.” I reply, but really thinking, “WTF is that?”

I know this is all about ego and not looking like a loser to someone I don’t know, but it smarts.

But, meh, it’s done and as many of my friends would tell me, “Suck it up sunshine”.

From a more compassionate place, I know I’m in a position now to finally stop my annual three weeks of toil. I’m aware that my competence – and my value as a human being – is not determined by my income tax return.

Tax is just numbers and, if anything, then numbers are my friends.

I think there’s a song about that …