Wednesday, 25 November 2015
How to...Self-Assessment Tax
As we near the end of the year a performer's thoughts will turn to the dreaded self assessment tax return. Eight years ago I made a pact with myself never again to put myself through those two days of surfing receipts; forging official contracts for looking after Lady Carter's pug Mr Timothy; wondering if I would get away with claiming for two pints of Fullers Honeydew, bought to silence a city boy smoking outside the Rising Sun in Cloth Fair, after he saw me help myself to some of the festive flora on the railings of St Barts church to arrange in my hair having forgotten my tiara for a Christmas gig at Club Kabaret.
I now do a mini-tax return each month when my bank statements come, and simply tot up the running total on April 6th when I submit my HMRC self-assessment return.
Of all the self-employed professions, performers and cab drivers most frequently underpay tax; ergo they are the two professions most likely to be audited by HMRC.
My advice on this is the Chinese proverb that says: Don't listen to them, go see.
Don't listen to them saying this sort of thing:
'I claim for all my rent because I so often stay up late sewing costumes.'
There are the hours when you're asleep that you shouldn't be claiming for, let alone that I doubt you wander sewing from room to room.
'I had my teeth whitened to make me more employable for television and film.'
Your teeth are now whiter all the time, not just for a role that requires teeth of that specific degree of whitening.
'I'm the direct medium transmitting the performance and need to be in good physical health, so I claim for weekends at Champney's, including the full range of spa treatments.'
Just ringing the tax fraud hotline number...
Go see this, HMRC's own guidelines:
We never had this in my day...
Keep all your receipts, your contracts and diaries going back at least seven years.
I've kept a Doings and Gubbins diary since 1999. It has my profit and loss entries for tax purposes and, on the same pages, thoughts about performances.
15/12 Hours at desk writing blog: 6.22
16/12 Hours as desk sewing ballet ribbons: 0.36
16/12 Profit: £1,018 box office split Bath Rondo Theatre
15/12 Profit: £121 for eleven days house and pug-sitting for Lady Carter
16/12 Loss: £22.50 train fare to Liverpool Street
16/12 Loss: £2.49 Foundation
16/12 Loss: £2.49 Lipstick
16/12 Loss: £9.99 Ballet tights
16/12 Loss: £4.99 Talcum Powder
16/12 Loss: £4.99 Mauve knickers
16/12 Loss: £5.80 Two pints of Fuller's Honeydew
Note from Pamela Bowling, singing teacher:
How many more times? I don't know how many other ways to write it in the score: different coloured pencils, underlinings, asterisks, drawing a pair of glasses with "Look!"? Perhaps I'll tape a miniature bottle of gin to the relevant page so you'll be pulled up short? Or sit in the front row of one of your recitals with a specially extended cattle-prod? Whatever, if you don't breathe after that first Panis Angelicus, then either you'll asphyxiate yourself or I, Pamela, bloody will! And Samson has just been blinded, must you sound like you're chirpily holding forth at an Aldeburgh Golf Club reception with a glass of plonk in one hand and a vegan chickeneque vol-au-vent in the other? And watch that arch, sexualised tone you use in Down by the Sally Gardens. It's just a flibberty-gibbert of a girl being described walking around in her bare feet, there's nothing muckily Freudian going on..
Note on Giselle, rising from the grave:
She would be cold and clammy and the earth would fall away in clods as she came up.
Notes on looking after Mr Timothy, the pug:
7am Likes to be sung to. Something uplifting, apparently, like "Oh What a Beautiful Morning". Then has a walk to the tennis courts and back.
No, Iestyn, not on his own.
7.15 Gets fed. Likes his food to be served with one of his special spoons. Great Writers from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. There are seven of these special spoons in his special drawer and they are to be rotated over the course of a week, obviously. If he had his way, you would favour Margery Allingham every day. You mustn't let him have his own way over this.
Resist gently, however.
A sense of there being something for him to look forward to must be inspired by jaunty phrases being said in an enthusiastic tone: 'Num num num num, dens' or 'Scoffy-scoffy for little boysy!' or 'Rum pum fummy, what's going in Mr Timothy's tummy?'
NB: the above mustn't be taken so far that it over-excites him.
If he is rendered over-excited, then it calms him to watch the hot tap running. He is to be lifted with wrists beneath his too-tums back legs and palms under his proudikins little shoulders - who's a stoutly man, then, yes, you are, yes, you are! - and placed gently within view of the hot tap, which is then to be turned carefully on - so that there are no splash-backs onto our precious little gentleman. No, he doesn't want that, does he, does he? He will look repeatedly between the hot tap and the window with the view of the bird table because he once saw a pigeon fly into the window, bloodily killing itself, and is hoping to see such a funny thing happen again.
On his main morning walk around the marshes he will bite a certain black labrador. The labrador will jump into an inlet to avoid this but Mr Timothy will simply wait for him to come out again. No, we don't just drag Mr Timothy away onward and let the poor labrador have his walk in peace, we let this ritual of nature run its course. The owner of the labrador is philosophical.
Mr Timothy must not watch daytime television.
Mr Timothy must not be left home alone for longer than two hours. If he is, he will block reentry to the house by being slumping in desolation against the front door, will have dug away quite an impressive amount of seagrass and staged a dirty-protest.
Mr Timothy likes to watch low-impact television programmes such as Songs of Praise, Antiques Roadshow and Columbo.
When it is Mr Timothy's bedtime, he likes to be sung upstairs with Brahms's "Wiegenlied". Please, as he is such an erudite little man, isn't he, den? isn't he, den?, quite the canine brainbox, is our Mr Timothy, he must be sung it in the original German.
If and when HMRC sends you the first letter expressing their unhealthy interest in your tax affairs, include photocopies of similar diary pages with your reply to let them know just what they're dealing with here. If they visit you to perform an audit-proper, answer the door wearing antlers, a yellow maternity smock and fly-fishing waders. Run around and scream Gather (then make yourself as small as possible) and Give (jump upright and throw lilac petals.) Groom the HMRC inspector's scalp for lice. Ask questions such as, 'Was it your poor child bricked up in the chimney?'
That sort of thing.
And If things do go ill for you, just blame Jesus. He didn't stop at prostitutes and lepers, but gave kudos to tax collectors by consorting with Matthew of Galilee.