So this is my acronym for Tax Return Avoidance Procrastination Technique. A skill I didn’t know I had until I named it 5 years ago. I had unconsciously been practicing this for years! And I suffered lots of stress as a result of this.
Now I find the symptoms of this developing in May, as this is the time of year when I get tempted to be busy with lots of other things and generally find ‘important’ ways to avoid actually sitting down and doing my Tax Return numbers. Every year for about 10 years, I’ve been making big claims that I will sit down every Sunday and do a week’s worth of accounts. Then I think, well its a sunny day – so really once a month is good. And then life happens and 6 months have gone by. But it hasn’t come to being a really top priority thing to actually change enough to do lots on this.
Now is the time to sit down and do this.
I used to wait until Christmas holidays and have a miserable time finding and sorting receipts, putting expenses into a spreadsheet and awaiting the annual meeting with my Accountant. I would burn the midnight oil in the coldest months. He was a lovely man who looked over his glasses at me and taught me stuff I needed to know. He wisely reminded me that there is a clue in the name the Inland ‘Revenue’, and they want my/your money.
He educated me on what I needed to declare and what were expenses pertinent to this business that I could claim against tax to reduce my bill. After a year I got good at keeping all business receipts and keeping them in monthly pockets, writing down any PayPal or credit card purchases and storing emails with financial information in an on-line folder.
The best and biggest move I made was to do my accounts and file my Tax Return by June instead of 30 January! I usually have all the information I need by April and May anyway, it just gives me a bit of leeway to say June. I can still get anxious about the deadline and feel stressed if I look at it in its big entirety – Doing My Tax Return.
Yet each step is manageable. When I do one small thing towards my goal and keep moving towards it and I can keep breathing I realise I am doing it. Yes I can still get distracted, yes I follow the shiny things my attention grabs on that would be more ‘fun’ and yet I keep choosing to come back to the spreadsheets and the numbers.
Numbers don’t scare me, when I get down to it I actually quite enjoy the process. And I enjoy seeing how much I’ve earned.
So here I am in May, gathering my files and folders, my spreadsheet is open on the computer ready to receive the numbers and categories. Last year I asked a friend for help and she came and helped me sort a slightly better system for my papers, keeping track of my income on a single sheet each month. She gave me the template she uses for her self-employed accounts. Its great as I plug on the number and code, it pops over to the right column for me and the accountant to keep track of Stationery or Transport.
I’m pleased that I’m making progress from year to year. After my previous accountant died, I have found a great new accountant who checks my spreadsheets and helps put everything in the correct boxes on the forms and files them for me. She charges a nominal amount, and I enjoy some peace of mind having her look over my shoulder and double check. She’s the expert at this, she does this sort of thing every day, so I’m happy to pay for her expertise and the ease and peace of mind it brings me. I often need to ask a question or two during each year, which she answers at no extra charge. This year I had a week off work to do Jury Service for the Coroner’s Court and she sent an official letter confirming my current income so I could claim expenses. Her name is Karen Burns, Accessible Accounts in Manchester. I’ve never actually met her though I’m happy to recommend her.
Today my TRAPT looked like: deciding that Mabel cat needs a thorough combing. That her cat bowls need a thorough cleaning. That the kitchen rug needs a wash / hoover. That today is the day to dig up the front garden. That today is the day to visit the neighbour I’ve been meaning to see all week. Today is the day to make that phone call I wanted to make and get all the dishes done before I collect my son from school. These are all temptations, and yet I only gave in to one and a half. I did comb the cat and put the dishes in the dishwasher. Yes it all boils down to choices.
And here I am mid-May, I have started. My spreadsheet is open on the computer, my Accounts File is open on my desk. I’m taking note of all the email business amounts I have receipts for and printing off my bank statements. Every step helps.
I am not stressing. I am not ‘behind’. I don’t particularly like this work, but I’m doing it anyway. I have decided to be adult about this piece of essential work. I am ‘adulting’ (a new phrase I got from American friends). I am making steady improvements. For the current year, I have honed my receipts into one business envelope and written amounts, categories and products or services straight on it. On the back of each envelope I’ve drawn lines to make 4 areas so I can see my expenses week by week.
Its not a massive priority for me to do a complete overhaul of the system, or suddenly learn how to do double entry bookkeeping or keep up with it every week or every month. If I do ever decide to approach that, I’ll have to sidle up to it slowly so I don’t scare myself with the enormity of that change. If I do choose to get really intentional about making any big improvements, I don’t think I’ll look for the magic bullet or App system that will do it all for me. I like pen and paper first, then a spreadsheet.
At the moment, I’m aware that this is how it is. Having a good honest look at an aspect of life is a good start to taking action and perhaps to make changes.
I have some beliefs that I’ve imbibed that “I should do it better/differently” and yet, for now, this is good enough. I’m doing it 7 months sooner than I used to. I’m getting systems in place. I’m tweaking them and making annual improvements. I’m keeping my current system going as far as data collection, I’m recording my income daily and weekly. I feed the envelopes with receipts each day/week and month.
I’m making small incremental improvements in my numbers gathering, spreadsheets and tax returns. The sheer terror and massive amounts of extra house work and decorating I used to get done in December and January have gone. The cold lonely late nights have stopped. I can see the temptations to get TRAPT and mostly smile and acknowledge them and choose to carry on one step at a time.
Lucy Ascham is a self-employed Alexander Technique Teacher who works from home at The Teaching Room S11, from Bodywise in Manchester M4 and The Therapy Room Sheffield S7.