19th December 2014
Dear Ms Elin-Salt,
Thank you for your recent expenses. I have done some calculations and your tax bill for the year 2013 – 2014 will be £**** (insert terrifying and ridiculous figure here) for the first instalment in January and a further £**** (ditto) for the second in July.
Despite this, have a very merry Christmas.
Cut to a black and white, film noir style shot. The bauble I am placing on the Christmas tree falls from my trembling hand in slow motion. It smashes into 1000 pieces like my poor, shattered heart. A solo cello kicks in playing a heart breaking rendition of “silent night” in the background. I bend double under the great weight of grief that has befallen me and let out a Mother-courage-esque silent scream. The Christmas tree wilts, turns black and rotten needles fall around my now broken, lifeless frame. My boyfriend runs in, arms full of presents – sees the pitiful sight before him, drops to his knees, cradles my body, shakes his anguished fists at the sky and howls “CUUURSE YOOUUUU HMRC !!!!! WHAT DID SHE EVER DO TO DESERVE THIS ?!” Darkness descends. The credits roll. It is over. Fin.
What actually happened, when those numbers jumped out and head butted me in the face as I was absentmindedly checking my emails, whilst getting ready to go Christmas shopping with my meticulously planned budget that extended to the sort of “thoughtful” presents you only buy when your £1000 over drawn – is that I froze. For a good 10 seconds I froze. Then –
“BAAAAAAAAAAAAABE” I scream at my deafened boyfriend “I THINK I’M GOING TO JAIL !!”
A little throwback into my early relationship with saving. In 1997 my Gramma gave me and my sister 2 empty biscuit tins with our names stuck on them, in which she put £2 a week. That money meant one thing and one thing only to me. A weekly trip to the shop next door where a kindly faced old man would cram as many strawberry Bon Bons and shoe laces into my fat little welsh face as my winnings could buy. Arriving back, sticky and victorious – there sat my sister. 3 years my junior, later to become a secondary school maths teacher and achieve every single step of financial stability years before me. Solemn, tutting, humbly savouring last weeks crumble from the freezer. Discussing the interest rate on her ever growing goldmine with Gramma. To this day she still has about £100 sitting in that biscuit tin. Mine was being used to store safety pins before the new millennium.
Like many of my creative friends, money only means something to me when I don’t have any of it. Most of us spend so much of our lives sending the “would love to but skint” apologies, it is absolutely understandable that the second a small windfall of buyout comes our way we very swiftly find ourselves stood on the table at Sophie’s with our long forgotten drinking buddies shouting “The winter is over! Sambuccas for one and all !”. We are mostly happy, fabulous grasshoppers by nature, not boring shitty ants. I personally think HMRC should understand this. But they don’t. Because they live in ant land and they say strange things like “Deadline” and “Final Warning.”
In my third year of drama school, a very well meaning accountant came to talk to us about the adult world we were about to be unceremoniously slingshotted into and how that may involve having to do some adulting with money. He might as well have spent an hour reciting ancient Hebrew. Possibly sensing our alarm, his parting words to us all were “Of course, if none of this makes sense to you, come and see me in the office and I’ll sort it all out for you.”
ALL PRAISE AND WONDER TO YOU MAGICAL MAN AND SAVIOUR OF EVERYTHING !! I signed up that very week. Obviously I took my Dad with me as adult back up.
Last year in the time I had allowed for filling in my expenses, I became an expert at doing this:
I saw Paddington bear the movie in the cinema and I made a large vat of mulled wine, bought some posh cheese and had a little Christmas party for all my friends. I dusted the blinds. Eventually, when I could find no more distractions other than, god forbid, sorting outing out the utility room – I spent 4 hours of my life that I will never get back with my head down, stunned into horrified silence at the sheer amount of money I had given to Starbucks (oh the bitter irony), urban outfitters and a gym membership that I hadn’t actually used since 2008. This finally being done – I sent it to the wise tax fairies and got on on with enjoying my Christmas. Then the email. But I don’t have thousands of pounds ! I don’t even have a hundreds of pounds ! Or tens of pounds for that matter ! How, how in the name of sweet baby Jesus in the manger has this happened ?!! Over the next week I made several phone calls to several official proper adult people – whilst desperately masking my high pitched hysteria so they wouldn’t suss me and send the van round to throw me in the workhouse. Eventually, after explaining various circumstances to various people – I managed to sort it all out. Amazingly, I didn’t go to jail but I did learn a very important lesson. Bon Bon time is over. I got myself an actual savings account this year. I put real actual money in it. It was really really difficult to leave some of it in there as it winked at me temptingly when I wasn’t working, I didn’t manage to keep all of it, but I think I have enough. I think so. Just. If you are where I was last year and you get that email – try not to panic. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit, remember it is literally only money, then phone the helpful adults who can deal with this sort of thing without sobbing and googling “faking own death.” Taxes will always be about as much fun to actors as the northern line at rush hour, but we’ve just got to bloody do them haven’t we ? And the very second they are done we have to FORGET THAT THEY EVER HAPPENED until next year. Repeat to a very slow, boring, unsatisfying fade.
So it is with that very attitude I sat down this morning, ready to do my expenses. And ever since then I’ve been writing this blog. Balloon sword anyone ?!
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