A taxing question for January

January can be a painful month for those who need to lodge their annual tax return.

Despite the warnings of penalties and having to face the inevitable job of cobbling together the required financial information, it’s often one of those tasks that many find reasons to avoid.

Unless you have a cash department or an efficient system in place, it can often be the last thing you want to do. No one gets paid for doing their own accounts or tax returns and it can be a drag, particularly for the less numerically minded!

However, like the last day effort to complete a school project, preparation for exams, or end of course thesis, most of us manage to get the paperwork done and are able to relax… until presented with the bill. For some there may be good news, such as a rebate for payment on estimated profits that failed to materialise. Either way, better to get the task done than risk inflated assessments and penalties for late lodging.

Those who have professional advisers to take care of the number-crunching sharp end still need to provide the basic information – and bear in mind it’s your name on the line certifying the return is correct. No point saying you just signed where the yellow ‘sign here’ sticker highlighted without checking and approving. At the end of the day the buck, pound, rouble or yen stops with you.

Since the infamous Panama Papers, much has been written about tax havens, while questionable schemes aimed at the rich and famous are exposed to scrutiny – sometimes well founded. But I can’t help thinking much of the criticism of some who take steps to mitigate tax betrays an element of hypocrisy, or even jealousy. Coveting another mans groat (or goat) has been around since biblical times, so nothing new about that. However, I do wonder at some of the criticisms and returning to biblical themes let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone! Yes give unto Caesar or HM Treasury what is due, but in a complex fiscal world there is a set off between tax and benefits, helping society and encouraging effort.

As we await the result of our January returns let’s hope we are able to rest easily with our conscience and having kept on the right side of the law, that tax paid and tax saved may be used wisely to benefit others though charitable works, providing jobs and helping to pay for public services.

© Ron Hastings 2018

To Pay or Not to Pay? It’s a Taxing Question
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