Saturday, February 2, 2008

big fish


Income taxes freak me out. I am a freelancer. I used to work full-time for a company, but when I became ill with Myasthenia Gravis, they laid me off. Myasthenia Gravis is caused by a defect in the system transferring signals from the nerves to the muscles, its effects are extreme fatigue and problems moving certain muscle groups. I had the most trouble in the neck and shoulders, I couldn't swallow my food, and could not lift my arms over my head and sometimes literally had problems keeping my head up straight. The doctors discovered the neurological problem when I started to be very cross-eyed. If not for that they might have taken very long to find it, because the effects are not that obvious to the outside world. I couln't eat and got dreadfully skinny, but I might have anorexia and been pretending about the tiredness of my upper limbs.

After it was diagnosed I got cured with high doses of Prednison for over a year. I really wanted to work and was working part-time with partial disability allowance. But at the end of that period there was a recession in the economy and the company used it as an excuse to get rid of me. They offered me three months wages as compensation. I sought legal advice with the Labour Union and got six months.

Fortunately at that time my cousins husband in America needed a draftsperson to mediate between the vendors and the sales agents. a chance in a million. I took it and started a "business", as a self employed draftsman/support engineer.

Immediately I had to file in my tax form. I got taxed for an amount of money that almost equaled the sum I had received when I was fired. I was shocked, but I paid up. I though this was all part of being self-employed. The next year I took care to note as many of my expenses as possible as business expenses. I reasoned, if this business is going to cost me, I am going to take something back out of it. The year after that I got a tax return over the first year amounting to the sum I had paid that year and some, plus interest. Apparently I had forgotten to indicate that a part of my income that year had been wages, not business profit, and taxes had already been taken out of them. Thus I had paid double. and in the end, they checked, they discovered my mistake, and they gave back my money. It was all good.

Now last year, in the summer I was sent a tax form on which I had to make an estimate about my profits for that same year. I have been working a lot so I thought my profits might turn out a little higher than the previous year. It is always best to pay taxes up front, because if you pay them late, they charge very high interest percentages. If you get a tax return, they pay you back with the same interest percentages. It isn't always even possible to find a bank that will give the same interest as the tax man does. This changed my view on income tax officials a bit. It eased my fear. I reasoned I can trust them with my money, maybe I best pay a bit extra up front and use the tax office as a high-interest savings bank. Confidently I filled in the form.

Three weeks later I received an adjusted tax levy. After recovering from my initial confoundedness and making a series of panicked calls to the income tax 'help desk' number I reasoned this is what happened: The computer - apparently they can not get enough real people to work at the tax bureau - the computer misread my "3" for an "8". The amount that I had to pay now roughly equalled my complete earnings over the whole year. I was told I had to ask for a postponement of payment for the part of the sum that I didn't want to/could not pay. I did and got a postponement of payment for part of the sum, but I'm afraid it has still badly dented my new-found trust in the tax man.

I had trouble sleeping. I couldn't think of anything but income taxes. I refiled my tax for over 2006 twenty times online. I didn't really want to work any more, the whole time I was thinking: I am sitting here while my bum gets lazy only to pay taxes while I could be outside enjoying the weather. (Um.. well, you know what I mean..). It got me thinking if a sum like that was deemed reasonable by those people, that they would not blink twice before changing my pretty modest old tax levy to this new outrageous one the next year.. like maybe this is the amount of money that I should be earning if I only charged the right rates...

Last week I got my tax levy over the coming year. It was the same as the previous one and roughly amounted to the entire sum I hope to be earning this year. I filed for a delay. I wrote several letters containing little prickly sentences like "you would not oblige me to take a second mortgage to pay my taxes" and asking them why they assume I make so much money, what line of business do they think I am in and does it begin with "p" and end with "rostitution"? Tore them all up. I managed to send them a letter in just mildly shaky handwriting containing nothing but factual sentences asking them for a postponement of payment, but even rather than that, a new and corrected tax levy for a somewhat more reasonable amount. I posted the letter Saturday.

Every day of this week, (except Monday because I know I have to make some allowance for delivery time) the first thing I did when I got home was watch the door mat. Nothing. Untill today. The dreaded and feared, awed and hoped for blue letter was there on the mat. With prickly palms I opened it and read. They have temporarily postponed my obligation of payment for the entire sum. in attendance of. ehm. I'm not really sure... the expiring of the term of payment, on which term, if it appears that I do rightfully have to pay this amount, they will cancel the postponement. Or something.

So.. I am back to wholeheartedly distrusting Tax Men again. It isn't that I think they're evil or something, but I just can't understand them.



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