DIY Tax - don't try this at home

It was one of those days at the office. You know what it’s like: the electricity bill had just arrived showing I owed the gross national product of a small African country; the computer had sucked up a bad dose of bytes and was coughing and dying on me; the staff were bitching again for chocolate biscuits at morning tea and it had been raining for most of the winter; my head ached, it always ached. I was in a bad way and I knew it could only get worse. On days like these I wish I’d become an undertaker so at least I could bury the problems I couldn’t overcome.

He walked in just then, when warm sunshine was a faint memory, when personal profit seemed like a dream and when I realised the smell in the room was from the goldfish who’d drowned a few months before. Time to change the water, but first, here was this guy looking like he’d just been to Inland Revenue and didn’t like what they’d told him,.

“I’ve just seen Inland Revenue and I didn’t like what they told me,” he wheezed tiredly. 

Yep, I can pick ‘em now, from aw, six feet away. He was a do-it-yourselfer, alright. Suddenly I felt a whole lot better. He shut the door against the cold.

“Which bit didn’t you like?” I asked. It was still raining and the chocolate biscuits could wait till Africa cleared its debt. Besides, he looked kinda pathetic, shifting his weight from one foot to another like he was trying to avoid wearing out both shoes at once.

“I hated the ‘we can sue you for negligence’,” he whined. “I shook at the ‘up to 40% penalty payments’,” he moaned, “and I fainted when they handed me the bill.” He burst into tears. “I was doing my tax myself, how could they do this to me?” He pulled a crumpled piece of IRD paper from his pocket, wet from the rain and his snivelling, and handed it to me with shaking hands.

Sometimes ya gotta be tough in this job. Someone’s gotta keep a clear head. I leaned back in my chair and back-handed the computer. “Grab a seat, son,” I invited him in.

“It’s like this, I told him straight. Three thousand public servants analyse policy and dump 40 reams of paper onto a finance minister’s lap. They go home and play golf and rip wings off a insects while the politician reads the bits he can understand, goes for a feed at the Green Parrot, reads the bits he doesn’t understand and slaps the lot down in parliament and it becomes tax law. Then, someone like you, who thinks the world’s fair and that tax law means what it says to an untrained eye, does it himself. Doing it yourself won’t send you blind son, but it might send you bankrupt.

“I paid the money,” he whimpered.

“Whoa.” I was so surprised I nearly choked. “Come again? You paid the money? Why’d you do that?”

His red eyes looked up at me. “Ten thousand dollars. I paid it. I was terrified.”

I brushed the sick computer onto the floor and kicked it. Nothing dies on me without a fight but this fella just did. When he paid it he accepted IRD’s line.

I put my arm around his shoulder. “Son, if you wanna stay up late at night reading 40 reams of policy wonk’s tax talk, if you wanna understand tax law, if you wanna try it all for yourself go ahead. If you need to rewire your house do you do it yourself? If you have an ingrown toenail do you get a cheap pair of Chinese-made pliers from Bunnings and rip it out?“

“You take my advice son, if IRD ever again thinks it can get a piece of you, call me. Now I got this special water I keep in the goldfish bowl. It’s a special herbal concoction. You take a deep drink now and in about three hours, I betcha the IRD thing won’t be the worst thing in your life and you’ll forget about it completely for, aw, four or five days. And son.”

“Yes?”

“Talk to me next year at tax time, there’s a good man.”