Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Will help you with tax returns for scotch. Or a roast. Or mechanical repairs.

So it's tax time in House Almigo - a time when my paperwork is all over the shop, nothing is where I remember it and the receipts I find somehow belong to things purchased by this clan over five years ago.


My home office.

Like home mechanics, attempting a five star dish in the kitchen and all of my attempts at something artistic - it usually ends in tears and fire in that order. 
Still, why pay a professional to tell me I'm not a multimillionaire and my fleet of Veyrons are tax deductable when I could save $100 and do it myself in the comfort of my own dungeon?...

It started when the internet didn't come on every single device you owned, laptops were heavy enough to break your legs and I had more hair on the top of my head than on my chest. You could pick up a free Tax Pack from your local newsagency and spend the majority of a boring night plugging in values with no idea of the outcome until you sent it away. And when I say plug, I mean pen because the free Taxpack didn't come with a keyboard, electricity or even a calculator - it was just a bunch of forms.

My yearly routine was fairly simple - grab a free Taxpack from the nearest newsagency, a bottle of red from the nearest bottle shop, put on some amazing music (Anything from Public Enemy's 'Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age' to my vast collection of CD singles from the bin at my station) and start to bore myself silly in the hope of vast riches.

How I did tax with the Taxpack

Of course given that I got through most of the Cab Sav before I was finished, it always paid to double check my figures and final outcome. And of course every time I did, it came out differently. Every single time, If I was actually working for an accounting form, I'd probably have lost my job years ago. 
Still, I posted the third set of figures (usually much different from the first) and forgot all about it until the cheque came in.

Yeah it was a memorable year the day I opened the return from the ATO to the tune of a whopping $1.20. I'd obviously put a massive dent in the tax coffers in that year!

Thankfully the plastic clad Taxpacks gave way to e-Tax and I went from spilling red wine all over the forms to spilling red wine all over my keyboard. But if you thought switching formats would make it any easier, forget it. I remember the original e-Tax was more complicated than trying to do an engine swap with a truck and an S2000 with only a wooden spoon for tools. It's got a little bit easier - but for a free service that's supposed to make your income tax easy to do at home, it sure can be a challenge. 

So I continued to file my tax electronically and as the years went on, so did my understanding of what I could claim meaning that the days of getting back a buck and change were over. Finally I could buy things I wanted (or no name brands of the same) and actually looked forward to doing my tax. I remember explaining to a fellow radio announcer the official list of claimable things according to the ATO - with the look on his face you'd think I'd just given him a stack of DVDs featuring Jenna Jameson, as his usual return went from $50 to $800. 

My new family soon learnt about my skills in interpreting e-Tax jargon and quickly employed me to help them lodge their claims. So once a year we all sit down with a fat stack of paperwork and we go through all of the probing e-tax questions (there's a lot of them) and I basic it all up as much as humanly possible to make it a much less confusing time. One year I advised one member to use a tax agent because there were a couple of questions I didn't know about - it turns out the agents result and my efforts using e-tax's prediction service were roughly the same - but I would always choose a professional over a radio announcer for anything but the most basic of returns.
Since I was saving them roughly $100-$120 a pop each year, they felt the need to pay me in kind even though I was just happy to save them (and get them) some coin. And since I wouldn't take cash (I'm don't charge family members for helpful advice), they cooked meals. I remember a weeks worth of home made lasagna (I love pasta so this was right up my alley) and a couple of lamb roasts in the my tax assistance time. The father in law was only happy when I finally allowed him to help swap out the radiator in my Rx7 as he kept trying to put money in my wallet and I flat out refused.

I helped him with his and his wife's return, he helped swap my turbo car from pissing coolant over everything - I feel that's a terrific swap personally.  

How my father in law deals with tax.

Of course this year they've tried to make doing your tax even more streamlined by incorporating the MyGov system (you have to sign up for it and link it to the ATO to be able to complete eTax this year) but I ended up yelling at my computer in frustration as it constantly fell over (the dramas with new untested services I guess..) It took roughly an hour before the service agreed to behave and I was really running out of swear words. 
Considering I'm going to have to help set up another 8 MyGov accounts to help the family this year, I can only assume there'll be enough food in my fridge for a month and my car will be able to do a 10 second quarter mile by the end of the month - ha ha.

So for uncomplicated returns that only need the barest of data entry, I'm your man. Prices start from a bottle of Jack Daniels or bucket of pasta right up to a 20B Mazda block depending on the complications. For anything else please consult your tax professional ;) 

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