The Girl Boss Diaries: 4 Lessons I’ve learnt from the first tax return

I have been meticulous in keeping the limited number of invoices from the 1st year of business, when most you do is laying the ground work if you aren’t lucky enough to boom within a few months, and yet I have lost my password to HMRC that was sent to me sometime in December, before I went to spend my time ill in my parents’ bed, which is somewhat nicer to be ill in than my childhood one. So it is the 17th of January, and I face the prospect of being one of the over 800K people who get fined for missing the tax return deadline.

Lesson 1: A mail organiser is a good idea whether or not you are due to spend 3 weeks abroad anytime in the 3 months before when your tax return is due.

At present I tend to just chuck everything business related into a box of important stuff that then becomes a nightmare to find things in. Chances are this letter didn’t even make it to there in the chaos of preparing for departure. As I was looking at organiser racks over the websites of my favourite stationery and office suppliers, the letters (there was a bit of a mix up with the account and it seems both requests went through…) in question landed on my mat.

Lesson 2: Oh ye, of little faith. 

Thank you Jesus, I promise that I will not get to the last minute ever again, or ever doubt your supernatural ability and willingness to perform miracles in the civil service and postal service so that a letter due to be sent “within 7 days” 2nd class got to me in two days (BOOM). Amen.

I’m sure there is a lesson in there about how it is a bad idea to go through the panic and need for rescuing when you could avoid so much of it by being diligent, which is what a Proverbs 31 woman would be. To be completely honest, I have a bit of a beef with the Proverbs 31 wife ideal and how the Christian blogosphere obsesses with it (a topic for another time perhaps?), but I find this blog post by Nora Conrad about applying the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law to whatever stage you are in life to be good.

And since we are on the topic of diligence (or the lack of thereof), the consistently amazing Jenna Farmer has just today published a blog post on “everything bloggers need to know about their tax self-assessment“.
It’s gold advice as usual, and it’s especially timely that due to the above predicament I have not submitted the tax return yet and therefore I have time to adjust it accordingly.

Lesson 3: January takes all the glamour away from being able to work in your PJs.

I heard this one from a lot of people before I went freelancer, it only looks glamorous while you aren’t freelancing. I thought I became a freelancer with my eyes open and a realistic view of the challenges (total flexibility of time requires a lot of discipline, and taking a random weekday off because you just end up wasting half of the day running errands so you don’t go out on a busy Saturday afternoon can become a problem if it happens too often and you also need time off being ill, as I have lately). I didn’t really stop to evaluate my productivity until I started looking through a year’s worth of activities to discern what can be claimed against your taxes due. That I’m not doing THAT bad is down to actually being a perfectionist and a workaholic, two personality traits I am keen to swap for a more virtuous alternative.

Lesson 4: Doing your first tax return in the evening is a bad idea

I’ve had one of those days when things happened and since I didn’t have anything in my diary for tonight I thought it’d be a good time to go try to do the tax return. Big mistake. I have a query about what I need to declare, and can’t go ahead. Now I really wish I could curl up in bed with a book and a bottle of wine, but instead I will be hitting the mat and then having soup because there is no wine in the house (did you think I’m doing Dry January? Ha!). I’m so lucky the password came through today, so I can do it with enough good time I can get my query resolved (I hope). By starting the process, however, I have also registered for email communications which I hope is not a mistake since my inbox can get busy, but I have yet to actually physically lose an email…

I had never expected what filing the first tax return would be like. I had heard horror stories and the like, but nothing compares to the reality of doing it.

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