My experience of tax returns and tax inspectors is always complicated. To make matters worse, the UK tax year ends on April 5th. That one is well up on my list of things I don’t understand.
I had to submit my tax return for year ending April 5 2012 by January 31 2013. I was on time (just) and was certain my submission was accurate and complete. Until last week that is, when an inspector’s letter informed me that my return was inaccurate and incomplete, and that I owe additional tax to Her Majesty’s Government. And it may get worse…I will likely have an additional penalty payment.
In hindsight my error was obvious. Mistakes are often obvious when we look back. But when we look back we know the outcome. I can now see what happened. And why. I realise what I didn’t do but should have. I don’t have any defence. I am liable.
Although I don’t have a defence…I do have an excuse. I left my old company five days before the relevant tax year ended. Components of my exit were still being resolved throughout April and I was still in discussions to try to understand what had been done, not done, why and why not, well into June.
Nevertheless…it was my tax return, my submission and my responsibility.
It is just over a year since I left that company. One of the things about joining a new company and taking on a new and exciting role is that I have had no time, nor any particular desire, to look back and reminisce. There is always so much to look forward.
With that in mind, I was surprised by how much having to understand and resolve my tax return has made me think back. And even more surprised by how strong my emotions have been. All sorts of events came to mind…big and small…significant and minor…wonderful and infuriating. Great friends. Superb colleagues. Allies and mentors. Promoters and detractors. Partners I laughed with…or wanted to cry about.
My sense before last week had always been that looking back was so often through ‘rose-tinted glasses’. We remember good times, great people and grand moments. We forget everything else. But for some reason my tax investigation and associated discussions opened up much more of the ‘everything else’. Perhaps it’s because the focus is all on the moment of my departure. The actual day. What was given and said to me and by who.
I also realised that I have been in email contact – this week – with many more of my old colleagues than I normally am. And that each email conversation has left me feeling good. An interesting positive balance. I have also spent hours every day this week talking to new colleagues about what we are doing together, what we can achieve together and how we can help, enjoy and grow together. More positive balance.
Perhaps it’s nothing to do with my tax. Perhaps it’s just a year. I don’t know. A year is a long time. So much has happened. So much fun and learning. Delight and amazement. New friends. Constant family. I do know that my connection with, and support from, friends new and old is always good. And that my family is my core.
The future is our opportunity. The future is there to influence and is ours to define. It’s what we do next that matters. The past is our history. I can’t change what’s done – although I have corrected my tax return – or what’s happened. We do have choice though. I choose not to worry. I choose to celebrate.