The UK tax year ends on the 31st of January each year. So last Friday night, at approximately 8:04 pm, I hit “send” on my electronic tax return for my business.
I felt ridiculously happy. Despite being four hours short of fulfilling my commitment to Dry January, I nonetheless cracked open a beer and basked in the glow of a job well done. That glow carried well into Saturday.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Taxes? Seriously? Get a life, sister.
But here are five reasons paying your taxes can make you feel great:
a. It’s an enactment of citizenship. I’m not all that patriotic in either of the two countries where I hold passports. I don’t have antipathy towards either nation; I simply don’t feel some overwhelming affection or bond. But somehow, paying taxes does make me feel like I am fulfilling the duty of being a citizen. Unlike voting, which is a privilege, taxes are an obligation. Perhaps this makes me a Socialist. I don’t think so. (Nor do I mind). But when I pay taxes, I do feel that I am holding up my half of a bargain with my government, for which I get so much in return.
b. It’s an expression of pride in your work. I always feel good about paying taxes. But I think that this year felt particularly momentous because it was the first time that I paid them as a sole trader (British for small business). In painstakingly reviewing my past year of invoices, expenses and business travel, I was reminded of how far I’ve come since I set out my shingle on my communications consultancy less than two years ago. And that was a really great feeling.
c. It feeds your inner project manager. On the advice of a friend, I began using an electronic accounting software called Free Agent last year to map my business expenses electronically. It’s a fantastically user-friendly program with exceptional customer support. Don’t get me wrong; it took me a while to learn the ropes (see below). But now that I’ve got the hang of it (which occurred at approximately 7:57 pm on January 31st…cough), I know exactly what I need to do and can’t wait to carry on coding my bank account every week going forward. For the “managers” amongst us, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
d. It’s a useful reminder to ‘read the instructions.’ This is one of Gretchen Rubin’s mantras. And boy, is she right. Despite the myriad webinars and online topic guides that Free Agent offers, I blithely blundered into using it without really knowing what I was doing. On January 2nd, I’d smugly allocated one afternoon in my calendar to file my taxes electronically this year. Needless to say, the week before they were due I was up at all hours of the day and night, googling things like: “What is a credit note?” Never again.
e. You learn a new skill. Sure, there are these individuals called accountants. As my business grows, I’m sure I’ll be availing myself of one of them shortly. But in this ever more automated day and age in which we live, there’s a heckuva lot of things you can now do on your own if you put your mind to it. I’m a big believer in life-long learning. Especially when it’s DIY.
Years ago, I posted a blog entitled “5 Signs You’re a Grown Up.” It included things like “no longer draping tapestries on your sofa” and “serving something other than beer at parties.” I would now like to add “paying taxes” to that list. At least as long as you learn to master the software…