I’ve come to the conclusion that filling out a mortgage application is only slightly less complicated and boring than doing my tax return. The only real difference is that when doing the mortgage application I have to pretend to have money. I actually timed the saving of all of my bank pdfs so that I caught the hour between when my pay appeared and all my bill payments went out… so that it looks like my account isn’t in overdraft, even though it is 99% of the time.
That’s still honest, right? The money was there. Briefly.
Ever since I got made redundant a few years ago, and started working freelance, I’ve also had to file an annual tax return. Most people in NZ don’t bother, since our employers have to work out and pay our taxes directly with every pay cycle. But when you don’t have an employer, you have to work it all out for yourself. Once a year. Which is actually a lot harder than doing it every week. It’s also very hard to find other people who sympathise because nobody else here does their own taxes.
The first year I had to do my own tax return, I actually journalled the whole process. It got less painful than this over time (but only slightly):
15 Sept 2009
I shouldn’t even have to do an income tax return, dammit!
I got my IR3 return in the mail many months ago. It comes with a letter. The letter states that, if you’ve had no income other than income from a salary over the previous tax year, then you don’t have to file a return. Sweet. I threw it in the trash and got on with my life.
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the Inland Revenue Department.
“You haven’t filed your IR3…”
“I don’t have to – your letter said so. All of my income over the last tax year was subject to PAYE tax – which was paid.”
*tappity tappity tappity* “You’re now enrolled for GST?”
“Yes, but only in THIS tax year – not last year.”
*tappity tappity tappity* “Oh, but we processed that application on Mar 31st, so that means you were registered in the last tax year for one day. You’ll still have to file an IR3. You’re in the system now and I can’t remove you.”
Sigh. The words “in the system” never seem to augur anything good…
Okay, so I am sent a letter from the IRD to say that I have until this Friday to complete my return and send it back. How hard can it be? They send me a little statement of income (to show what I earned, and the tax that I’ve paid). I have my receipts and bank statements. Really – how hard can it be?
Questions 1-8 are fairly straightforward: name, address, IRD number, birth-date, bank account details… All good so far.
Question 9: “If you’re not already registered for working for families tax credits and think you may be entitled to it, see page 9 of the guide.” Well, that’s not really a question, but let’s go have a look… Page 9 of the guide tells me to check the website… The website tells me I will need to fill in a form… The form asks me about my dependents… I have no dependents – back to square one.
Is it time for coffee yet? I think it must be time for coffee…
Question 10: “You may be a non-resident of New Zealand for tax purposes and may need to complete an IR3NR return instead. See page 10 of the guide.” Oh no, I’m not falling for THAT again! Next question.
Question 11: “Did you receive family tax credit from Work and Income? Don’t include any payments from Inland Revenue.” Nope, I’m pretty sure I would have remembered that.
Question 11A: “Did you receive income with tax deducted, as shown on your summary of earnings? See page 11 of the guide.” Yes – that’s what that other letter is. Why couldn’t they just fill in all those boxes themselves? I dutifully fill in boxes A through E.
Flying through it now. 🙂
Question 12: “Schedular Payments”… *blink* Apparently they’d be listed on that other letter if I had any. They aren’t, so I’ll presume I didn’t receive any. Go to Question 13.
Question 13: Bank interest. Yes. Rummage, rummage. Here it is! Gross and RWT – get out the calculator…
Question 14: “Did you have any New Zealand dividends paid or credited to you or did you receive shares instead of dividends? Include any dividends from partnerships or trusts. Keep your dividend statements.” Well, it’s a bit late now if you didn’t keep them, isn’t it? What the heck is a dividend? See page 18 of the guide… “Unit trusts are treated as companies for income tax purposes and unit trust distributions are treated as dividends.”… Right. *blink* So that’s very clear then. We’ll just tick the “no” box, shall we?
Christ! Please say that there’s something else to do! I had a friend at University who was doing accounting – where is he?… *tappity tappity tappity* Facebook says: “Not the Steve you’re looking for? Try these 500 other people who have the same name…” Sigh.
Question 15: “Did you receive any taxable Maori authority distributions?”… Pretty sure I didn’t receive anything like that, taxable or not.
Question 16: Trusts… No. I’m just going to start ticking all of the “no” boxes…
Question 17: “Staple proof of overseas tax paid and a letter detailing any overseas losses on the top of page 3.”… *blink*
Question 18: Partnership income. No. Tick.
Question 19: “Tax credit and income subtotal”. Add up the blue boxes and put the total in the blue box. Add up the dark red boxes and put the total in the black box… Okay. Done.
Why is that box black now? Best not to ask really…
Shareholder-employee salary… Rents… Self-employment… Come on! Let’s move it along, shall we?
Question 24: “Are you claiming a loss from a loss attributing qualifying company (LAQC)?”… WTF!
Question 26: “Are you claiming expenses against your income? Note: Don’t show expenses claimed elsewhere in this return here.” WELL I HAVEN’T FINISHED THE BLOODY RETURN YET!!! HOW DO I KNOW WHAT EXPENSES I’VE CLAIMED IF I HAVEN’T EVEN GOT TO THAT BIT YET?!?
Aaaaarrrgghhh!!!! *sob sob*
That’s it. It must be time to stop this and go have lunch…
Question 28: “Are you claiming net losses brought forward?” I don’t know, am I?…
What’s in the mail? The mailman must have been by now…
Where are my slippers? I can’t go outside in just my socks!
Oh, there they are.
*toddle toddle toddle… clunk*
Ooo! Lingerie catalog!…
[more time passes…]
Question 32: “Do you have excess imputation credits brought forward?”…
What’s an imputation credit and how would I know if I have an excess of them?…
How about I read the rest of the junk mail too?
[more time passes…]
Page 37 of the guide: “If you had unused imputation credits in your 2008 tax return, they are unrefundable and must be brought forward and claimed against this year’s tax payable. You can find the amount on the loss/excess imputation credits carried forward letter we sent you after your 2008 year return acknowledgment or notice of assessment…”
Excellent. Well that’s all very clear…
“If you have excess imputation credits to bring forward but didn’t receive confirmation of the amount from us, please call us.”… WHAT THE HELL IS AN IMPUTATION CREDIT!!!!
I hate my life… *sob*
I wasn’t even meant to do this stupid tax return! Can’t they just send me an assessment? I was on a salary – all my tax got paid by the payroll lady! Jeesh!
I wonder what’s happening in the rest of the world today… Ooo! An old Law and Order rerun on TV! Maybe I’ll go make another coffee and settle in for 15 minutes…
[still more time passes – an hour and a half]
Oh right! “Excess imputation credits”…
Oh screw it, I’ll just tick “no” for everything! My God, why do they have to make these things so BORING?
“No” – tick.
“No” – tick.
“No” – tick.
“No” – tick.
*scribble, scribble… calculate times 1/3… plus $7640…*
“Print the tax calculation result from Box 16 of the worksheet into Box 34B.”…
WTF? $791 OWING!?!
All that hassle just to tell them that I OWE them money? But I wasn’t even meant to file a return in the first place! They would never have known!!!
AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!! *sob sob*