Confusion and illumination

Today I completed and submitted my tax return.

Thank you. Very kind of you.

Even though I was employed last financial year and my employer deducted from my pay all the tax I owed and sent it to the tax office... even though my 'investments' (i.e. my bank account) earned me a generous £1.02 interest after tax... even though my freelance 'business' earned nothing... when all the boxes were filled and checked the system said, apparently illogically, that I owed 95 pence.

In the late 70s, my first proper job was in an educational/ community organisation that paid a lot of creative people small amounts of money to do wonderful things. As was possible then, we cared more about doing these wonderful things than about bureaucracy, though we did stumble around doing our best to obey such rules as we had to. In my third year there the tax office became exasperated at us not understanding their questions and sent a tax inspector for several weeks to go through all our paperwork. He was a lugubrious long-haired classics graduate who had spent three years in the hills above Aberystwyth reading Latin poetry to sheep and acquiring a qualification that led him, rather sadly, I felt, to the tax office. He had a couple of years more work experience than I did, much of it being trained in tax fraud. Since the only space we had for him was at a desk in the room where I worked, I had ample opportunity to ask him questions that he didn't know how to avoid answering. I learnt how to spot forged signatures and how to find suspicious patterns in the last digits in a column of figures as well as how the tax system works.

So I understand how it is that I owe 95 pence. Today I have paid it. I hope they use it towards the salary of someone who likes Latin poetry.

Postscript (thank you for such kindness about this tale)

By a very strange coincidence I came across him in a tea-shop in Ely, on the Good Friday after he'd left us, and he looked utterly appalled. He probably thought I was stalking him. I wasn't - I was spending a week teaching a very pregnant friend to drive on a route that took us to pretty places via cheap hostels. I expect he was on a remote weekend away to recover from us.

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