Now, the thing about the tax allowances for the income band youre talking about, is that Sorry, do you know about this already? The smiley accountant enquired of me, smilingly.
About what I was just saying. About the tax bands and the excess penalties for income regrading increments Did you know about these already?
He waved some papers around for emphasis. I think they were the same papers he had just been waving about a couple of sentences previously, but it was hard to tell. They had numbers on. Little numbers. Lots of them.
Oh, yes. I mean no. No.
I just dont want to patronise you by telling you things you already know. Said the kindly accountant, kindly.
I had to put him at his ease. It was my duty as someone who was probably going to be paying him quite a lot of money.
Please, dont worry about that. On no account must you think I know anything at all. Think of me, when it comes to any of this, as a tiny, tiny child, wide eyed at your feet, begging for your nuggets of financial brilliance.
I didnt really say that.
But perhaps I should have done. Instead I made some friendly Uhuh! noise, and smiled like a simpleton. I think he got my measure when, a minute later, I brought out the bank statements and bills that Id brought as proof of address and handed them over, unopened.
Do you mind if I open them? Asked the mild-mannered accountant, mildly. Only its easier to photocopy them if we do
Open them? I replied, as if the concept of opening these vile little missives had never crossed my mind – or had and had been decided to be far too untidy a concept. Oh yes, you should open them. Probably. I dont know what they say I said, needlessly.
It was recommended to me (by someone who knows me very well, we might gather) that since I was having to move into this self-employed status thing, I should probably, and with some sense of urgency, get myself an accountant as soon as I went freelanceish.
So I did. I had the people around me who are cool enough to know self-employed people of a certain type to ask them for their advice and recommendations, if they had any, of accountants in the Brighton area.
This guy one friend of my beloved suggested, Hes really good. So good that every time I go around to see him I expect to see him chucking filing cabinets out of the window while the police try and get through the front door – but no, its all comepletely legal! Hes brilliant!
And so he might be. And as soon as someone can explain to me what he does, I do, or in fact any of them – whoever they are – do, I will be convinced of that brilliance. In the meantime, I am convinced mainly that he seems a nice and smiley man.
As far as I am aware, he is now in the process of ordering me some kind of VAT. Then, when the time is appropriate, I will place all my receipts and other pieces of paper in and out of envelopes IN his vat, and then he will wave his hands over them, reciting some special words and sections of accountancy manuals, and then some, you know, magic happens, and I pay some vague amount of money to someone, somewhere, and give some to him as well, for being lovely.
I have never been good with money.
I would go as far as to say I have been bad.
Very bad, at times.
Very very bad.
I know things in theory, and I can see what they might possibly mean in practice, but as soon as Im presented with some cold hard Thing on a piece of paper, with numbers and words and dates and on, I get very confused, and I panic.
It may as well be in Russian.
In fact, I feel quite sure that often, it is, and theyre only doing it to fool me.
Whoever they might be.
This time, I am being good.
Though I had it somewhere in mind that having an accountant meant something about putting every piece of paper that ever touches your fingers in a large shoebox and then, at a certain time of year, handing them all over and running away.
I am assured this is not the case. My kindly accountant explained in no uncertain terms that I will pay him for the amount of time they have to take sorting out my pieces of paper, and if I keep my pieces of paper – or paperwork, for apparently paperwork can be on the pooter as well – very nicely and neatly, it will take them less long to process, and I will pay them less.
I think by this point in the meeting he had realised he was communing with a moron, someone with all the financial nous of a nosebleed.
It was most kind of him to explain this so well, I think.
And also sensible.
So I left my meeting with my new Kindly Accountant feeling generally quite buoyant if somewhat confused about the whole accountancy thing. I immediately phoned my Beloved.
What a nice man he was!
Yes, hes lovely. He should be your accountant too. You should phone him and make an appointment, and you should go and see him and speak to him about taxes and things. Perhaps you should go next week?
Yes, lets do that. And then you can listen to him, and then you . And then you can tell me what all his kindly words meant.
Anna, what confused you?
Anything after I said what I did for a living. That was where we lost each other. That was when I stopped talking, and he started talking. In Russian. I think.
Whatever, I have an account that Im siphoning some large percentage of everything into, and I have boxes in which I put different flavours of pieces of paper.
And Im sure everything will be fine.
This is as financially technical as I get: The day of my appointment with the Kindly Accountant, I came home, and sorted out my filing system. This involved crayons, scissors, and origami paper.