Death and taxes

Before we begin the post proper, I should warn you that the author is feeling rather pleased with himself (verging on smug) and, even more worryingly, seems to be referring to himself in the third person.  The reason for the former will become clear in due course, the reasons for the latter you will have to decide for yourself.

As the title suggests, today’s post will tackle universal themes in an attempt to broaden the appeal of GofaDM.  Working backwards (through the title), in the UK, as the beginning of April looms, we are told that “tax doesn’t have to be taxing” – most recently, so far as I know, by Moira Stuart (unless someone else has captured this highly desirable gig).  For rather more than a decade, the splendid folk of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Personal Tax Service have managed my interactions with HMRC – helping to avoid unwanted interactions with HMP and fines, despite my occasionally erratic approach to the process.  However, for reasons unknown, the RBS have decided to abandon this nice, safe business – perhaps to spend more time on its core business of irresponsible gambling?  Anyway, this leaves me to worry about the future earnings of the lovely people who have been looking after me over the years and to find a new accountant to take over the keeping of me on the straight-and-narrow tax-wise.

I have decided to go local with my new accountants, so rather than a remote presence by phone or mail, I can be a real physical nuisance invading their lives.  Their offices are a mere 5 minutes stroll from my urban garret – so it will be all too easy to drop-in unannounced (though obviously, in an ideal world, I’d prefer to place my card on a silver tray and then be formally announced by a suitably-attired butler).  Anyway, in the sunshine of yesterday afternoon I wandered up the road to drop off the paper formalising our new relationship – thus saving the cost of a stamp and any post-related delays.  As I was already halfway to the Common, I continued on my way for a stroll through managed countryside and to check on the progress of Spring.  The season was making satisfactory progress and so I rewarded myself with an ice-cream cornet for my fiscal prudence and supervisory acumen.  I have decided that in future all tax-related correspondence will be carried by hand (either left or right) on a sunny day, so that the messenger can enjoy a walk and an ice cream – which brings a whole new meaning to having plain-vanilla tax affairs.

To maximise the chance of the availability of sunny days, it seemed wise not to leave preparing the data for my tax return until the last minute (and winter).  So, given the rather wet and windy weather today in Southampton I have spent the morning compiling all the information needed for my tax return.  This represents a personal best for me, time-wise – hence, a portion of my smugness.  Well, almost all my tax affairs are in order: “the man” has yet to render unto Caeser (or even me) his P11D – and apparently may not do so until the second half of July (I guess these things can’t – or won’t – be hurried).  Still, when it does finally come I shall be ready and, on the first ice-cream friendly day thereafter (though readers should bear in mind I did have an ice-cream on the seafront at Bexhill on Boxing Day), I shall deliver my tax documents to my accountants.

However, that isn’t all.  Oh no!  Not only did I sort out my tax this morning but, for the first time in my life, I took a proper grip on the disposition of my pension.  I rather feared I was over-invested in the UK – and found these fears were extremely well grounded (even more so than expected).  So, time for a little geographical diversification of my risk.  Luckily (though this is no coincidence), I have prepared the groundwork for this using the advice from another bright chap with time on his hands (OK , a bright chap with …) and the excellent advice of John Kay.  Mr Kay’s advice came in his book The Long and Short of It (subtitled “finance and investment for normally intelligent people who are not in the industry”) which despite the subtitle I found very informative (and amusing): it is also, by some distance, the pinkest think I own.

All of this sudden lurching towards financial responsibility was complete by half-past one – and that included time to make and eat my lunch – which explains my cat-like self-satisfaction (however, I did shower in the traditional manner, rather than licking myself clean).  At this rate, I may even be able to pass for an adult by the time I draw my pension – assuming I make it that far (the date does seem to have been receding faster than I’m approaching it of late).

What about death, you may ask?  Well, as part of my pre-cornet stroll around the Common, I took a small diversion and had a stroll around Southampton Old Cemetery.  I have to say that it provides all you could want in a graveyard by daylight (it is positively archetypal), and can only hope that at dusk a mysterious mist (and nothing else) rises from the ground.  A salutary reminder, perhaps, of where all this financial responsibility will lead and a useful counterbalance to my current elevated levels of smug.  But, more importantly, it provided a second unavoidable element of life with which to grace the title.

Feel free to continue the lunacy...

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