Fiscal Responsibility, Going Forward in the Medium to Long Term

Ah, the business of writing. Nothing yanks you out of the heady heights of imaginative flight like having to sort out your accounts and fill out your tax return. And this year, we have these new income levies to take into account when working out how much we owe in preliminary tax – and what dastardly financial maniac came up with the insidious idea of paying tax in ADVANCE? Where’s our preliminary health service, that’s what I want to know.
The government has brought in these new emergency levies to try and plug the holes in the financial Titanic that is the Irish economy. I knew they were going to cost me money (they’ll cost just about everyone money) but I didn’t understand them, so I went on the Revenue Commissioner’s website.
Their helpful explanations confused me even more, so I rang up the local tax office. The man there listened to my questions, wasn’t sure how to answer them, went on the website himself and then he got confused too. He put down the phone and went and talked to his boss. He came back and explained the levies to me in small words and I repeated it back in even smaller words. Then he directed me to a web page that explained how to do my preliminary tax.
I hung up the phone and read through the page. Then I read through it again. And then a third time, cursing through my tears. This is what they put on their website to help people understand what they’re looking for:
‘ . . . in calculating the amount of preliminary tax, the liability for 2008 must be increased by an amount which is equal to the income levy that would have been payable if income levy had applied for 2008 at the same rates and bands as apply for 2009. (Section 531H(3) TCA 1997).
‘In calculating the amount of income levy due, credit for levy on relevant emoluments should be allowed in the following manner:
‘Income levy as calculated on 2008 aggregate income using composite rates
‘Income Levy as calculated on 2008 relevant emoluments using composite rates’
Lamenting my obviously poor grasp of English, I rang the tax office. The same man replied, a note of trepidation in his voice when I told him who I was. I read out the excerpt to him. He read it himself. There was a long silence. Then he put the phone down and went and talked to his boss.
Eventually he came back and explained it as best he could, or at least in a manner that I was able to decipher meaning from in my own simple way. And as I put down the phone, feeling suddenly alone, I wondered how many Irish writers recoil from trying to make a living from writing because they’re reading skills aren’t up to the task.
Tomorrow, I’m going to finish ‘The Vile Desire to Scream’ and get it out to my reading circle and my editor. It’s about a murderous family of villains and their brooding, labyrinthine castle full of booby-traps and secrets. Because I need something to pick me up.