It’s a Mann’s World: Straight to the decimal point
Time to do my tax return. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m excited. But it’s such a change of pace from my usual daily existence that I actually rather enjoy a day or two of filing, and counting, and poring over remittance slips. Is that so wrong?
Nostalgia plays a role. Until I became self-employed, I never knew a simple McDonald’s receipt, for instance, could evoke such a vivid trip down memory lane. It’s not just the stirring physical memory of the strawberry milkshake cooling my throat down on a hot summer’s afternoon.
Equally redolent is the address of the branch (I’d forgotten I spent that morning in Northampton! Do you remember, there was a Sally Army band playing outside…), the name of the woman who served me (Denise, that’s right! She had that chunky bracelet), and even the precise time that the milkshake was served (3.34pm? A bit early for milkshake. Oh yes, that’s right, I had that hairdresser’s appointment at 4pm…). Thanks to my anal process of filing away every single receipt, regardless of its value, a whole year of forgotten afternoons comes sharply into focus.
"Until I became self-employed, I never knew a simple McDonald’s receipt could evoke such a vivid trip down memory lane"
There's also, of course, the satisfaction of claiming back some money. I was in Northampton that afternoon to host a show on their local radio station. Then I had a haircut for a photo shoot the following day. So, that was a Work Milkshake, that was. Drinking strawberry milkshake is part of my job. Take that, Mr Taxman!
Now, claiming a tax discount on strawberry milkshake seems absurd. But by applying the relevant rules, it is also entirely logical. Look, I believe in paying my taxes—that’s how pensions get paid and children get educated. But I also enjoy the merry dance of calculating exactly how much I owe. See, it’s fun!
It’s even more entertaining because I refuse to use proper accountancy software to log my payments and invoices. I’m aware that to do so would be more efficient and more readily understood by my accountant. But I have my own, bespoke, colour-coded document I dreamed up years ago: yellow for TV appearances, green for voice-overs, blue for corporate work, red for radio— and it’s just a lot more engaging to complete a log of my work when it looks like a multicoloured rainbow of achievement, rather than a sad old black-and-white spreadsheet of underpaid gigs and decimal points.
Having always been hopeless at budgeting—so long as bills get paid, I rarely obsess about my income—I usually only discover how much I actually earned in any given month when I complete my coloured spreadsheet the following year. Totting up each month’s figures, therefore, is full of suspense. In my head I’m playing an ITV daytime quiz show, in which I have to guess whether my July 2016 figure will be higher or lower than my July 2015 figure. (It was higher! Well done, Olly!! You’re through to the next round!!!). Basically, I’ve gamified data entry.
I also use eye-catching stationary to lift my mood. It’s a shame, really, that professional number-crunchers do so much jotting, blotting and totting that they burn through pencils on an hourly basis and find themselves buying replacements from wholesale stationers, where every item is dull.
By contrast, as a hobbyist desk bunny, I can and do buy paperclips in the shape of emojis, erasers that look like dog turds and highlighters that are so brightly neon they burn your retinas. I still use the baby blue Casio calculator that I had in GCSE Maths, emblazoned with my name in Tipp-Ex. It’s hard to be bored.
"It’s just a lot more engaging to complete a log of my work when it looks like a multicoloured rainbow of achievement"
Then there's the unbridled joy of chasing up outstanding fee payments. I realise that sounds like sarcasm, but I mean it. If I follow an invoice up within a few months of it being submitted, I always feel acutely embarrassed; somehow vulgar for bringing up such a déclassé topic as actually being paid for the work I’ve done (“I’m terribly sorry, I’m sure it’s on its way, but would you possibly mind checking for me that you’ve processed my invoice?”—that kind of hogwash).
But, one calendar year later, it’s beyond any doubt who’s in the wrong: they’ve had AGES to pay me, and despite my repeated chasing, they have failed. This puts me in the driver’s seat. I get to call up and be the victim, and they’re usually terribly apologetic. Genuinely, it’s quite a nice feeling to suddenly feel like I’m a priority for them. Plus, if you wait a whole year to chase an invoice, you get paid pretty promptly.
I imagine that’s not the sort of advice that would appear on any accountancy course. But, sometimes, we amateurs can teach the pros a thing or two. Bring on 2018.
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