Sunday, 22 January 2017

Thoughts Every Actor Has Doing Their Tax Return

January, a month of detoxing, curling up indoors wondering whether the sun will ever return and, if you're self-employed and disorganised, a time to cry over receipts and spreadsheets.  Yes, it's tax return month, and here are the various thoughts you'll probably have while doing it.

1.  It'd probably be better to just go to prison.

There will be a moment, usually when you're trying to hold a fraying receipt up to the light to work out whether that's an eight or a zero, that it'll dawn on you that if you went to prison then you wouldn't have to be doing his.

2.  Next year I'll put my log in details somewhere safe.

Seriously. Every. Bloody. Year.  'Oh, I know, I'll just write it on the back of this envelope that I'll definitely keep in the same place until next year.  I'll just put it on top of all the other envelopes that I've also written past log-in details on.'  Seriously, I've done this.  I'm an idiot.  After 10 years, I've now learnt to keep them in a draft email, on my phone and in the back of three different notebooks.  Next year I'm getting them tattooed on each limb.

3.  I will do this earlier next year.

You will think this. You will tell yourself that you will definitely get this sorted as soon as possible next year. Ohh, you'll show Moira, won't you? Come April, you'll smash that tax return, won't you? Of course you bloody won't. Come April you'll be embracing the possibility of sunshine and the possibility of maybe having a drink outside. The only thought you'll give that pesky tax return is whether those drinks are deductible after you drunkenly pledged that you'd show those directors what they've missed out on.

4.  Keep. Track. Of. Earnings. And. Spending. Throughout. The. Year.

I had this thought during my first tax return and it's one of the very few things I've stuck to. Seriously,  this helps. I have a boring file on my laptop with all my tax things tucked away and in there is a spreadsheet wishing I'd explore their full potential because all I do is put self-employed earnings in one tab, any PAYE earnings in the other and then my spends in the third. It's boring but it makes me feel super-organised. Plus it avoids the need to trawl through bank statements come tax return time, and anything that prevents me from seeing just how much money I spend in Itsu and Japanese Canteen in Holborn is something I'm all for. And on that note...

5.  Why do I spend so much money on...?

When you do find yourself working your way through your bank statements, cringing at any payment made between the hours of 2am and 5am, you'll start to see a pattern. Maybe it's daytime Ubers, maybe it's post-10pm KFCs or maybe, like for me, it's the alarming amount of £10+ payments made in Itsu (yes, I'm always there on my own. No, I don't think one Hip, Humble and Healthy is enough). Anyway, whatever it is, there will be something that just keeps cropping up. Maybe you hate yourself enough to tot all that money up and see just how much you're frittering away on overpriced miso and then think about what more meaningful things you could have spent that money on. I don't suggest doing this. Doing a tax return is awful enough without beating yourself up over a few unnecessary splurges in Whole Foods over a year ago. Did you enjoy that eye-wateringly expensive raw almond macaroons at the time? Great, then move on.

6.  Thank heavens I don't earn more.

This is the one time of year that I'm thankful for not earning enough to do nice things. Imagine having so many bloody acting jobs that you had to work out what you'd earned from all of them and then pay tax on it. Being a rester has its perks because even the HMRC self-assessment team don't care about how many days you've spent sat at home in your pyjamas eating Chipsticks.

7.  Why the heck don't they teach people how to do this at drama school/uni/anywhere?

When I was at drama school, tax returns were mentioned in very much the same way that Theatre in Education jobs were, they are inevitable but the less you know, the better. This is the sum of what we were told about tax returns at drama school...get an envelope for each month of the year and put all your receipts in the corresponding envelope. Now this is good advice but you do really need to let people know what to do next. I do worry about the class of '06, all found some 60 years later, dead amongst a sea of yellowing envelopes, each housing a desperate attempt to claim numerous Health and Happiness boxes, their poor families faced with a terrifying tax bill. Do I benefit from pre-owned assets?  Was I not domiciled in the UK and claiming the remittance basis? WHY THE HELL AM I BEING ASKED TO MAKE A PAYMENT ON ACCOUNT (this is the most terrifying thing in the world when it first happens)? Maybe drama schools are better now, maybe other drama schools are just better than the one I went to, but seriously, these things need to be taught. It's bad enough that you're churning out swathes of unemployable buffoons each year, don't make it worse by making them criminals too.

8.  Seriously, is prison that bad?

We've all watched Orange Is The New Black and thought that, overall, it actually looks okay. Obviously it's not but, come on, you might get to be friends with Taystee...

9.  Next year I'm going to pay someone to do this. 

I will never do this because I'm cheaper than value brand baked beans but there have been times when I've been on the phone to HMRC for 2 hours because I entered ONE BLOODY DIGIT WRONG on my log in too many times and it then locked me out where I've thought it would be preferable to have someone else pour over my pathetic earnings. Then I remember how many bowls of chicken tantanmen I could buy from The Japanese Canteen for the money I would spend on an accountant (yes, I know they can save you money in the long run) and I continue to patiently sit on hold and listen to The Boy Is Mine on the harpsichord for the nineteenth time.

10.  At least I only have to do this once a year.

Unless the introduction of quarterly tax returns happens and we have to go through this palaver EVERY THREE MONTHS. Time to start saving for that log-in tattoo. At least it would be tax deductible, right?

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