I am convinced that no writers should do their own taxes. It can’t possibly work out to our benefit. For a few years, I tried, because an accountant costs. I’d fill in all the boxes and end up owing some outrageous amount that I didn’t have anyway. How could that be right, I’d think, living right on the poverty line, at best. Then, I tried using the taxation software, but it has no brain. It can discern nothing. Just because I entered something on one line, did not mean that it would deduce that I should get a deduction on some other line. Tax forms are entirely biased against right-brain people.
Numbers happen on the left side of the brain. I think there’s a plot against artists. I think it’s sinister. The revenue people do not look over my tax return and see everything I miss deducting. They only look for things I miscalculate that would mean a larger payment. Come on. A person living at the poverty line or lower has to pay every year at the end of April? So, I started paying an accountant to sort out the meaning of all my bits of paper. She takes them seriously. She doesn’t laugh aloud at any of them. She’s worth every cent because I know that, whether I get a refund or have to pay, it would be way worse for me if I still tried to handle it myself. It’s a bonus that my income isn’t so pitiful as it was.
Today, I got out my file folder and started sorting statements and receipts. I do not dread it. Adding up the category totals isn’t scary at all. And there’s a bonus: some of the receipts are like looking at pictures. Because part of my work involves travel, I look at the receipt for cheese from Sheridan’s in Galway and cannot help feeling wistful. Over cheese. As I do the currency conversion for the Belfast taxi receipt, I remember the trip to Milltown Cemetery and Bobby Sands’ grave. When I see the receipt for accommodation on Inis Meain, I can see the green door of Synge’s cottage out my window.
Accepting the truth that I cannot complete my tax return with anything like accuracy has meant that I can take a perverse pleasure in preparing my papers for the accountant. Perhaps I could write a poem for her. Or, at least, about my receipts and the memories they conjure.