You know it’s never going to be good when the tax man rings.
By the time I’d fished my phone out of the bottom of my handbag (d’oh!), the call had gone to voicemail. So at 9am this morning I had an ominous message to the effect of “Could the authorised contact for the ABN xxx call the Tax Office within seven days.” Gulp.
So I dutifully called the number given and patiently waited on hold for several minutes, all the while wondering what it could be – did I win the lucky draw for an audit? Did they find out about that Grade 5 assignment that I didn’t hand in? Exactly what was I in for and how deep was I in it?
So it was a bit of a relief when they said that the reason for their call was to confirm what business category I was in. On my business registration form I’d written what I thought was a reasonable description of what I do: consultancy to museums and cultural sector; interpretive writing; so on. Problem is, that doesn’t mean nada in tax land. The subsequent discussion went something like this:
What do you do most of the time?
Well, at the moment, it’s writing.
So are you an author?
Er, no. Not in any way you’d be thinking anyway. (I was pretty careful about saying I was a creative in any way, as being in an ‘artistic’ category apparently puts you into a scary tax-related No Man’s Land which I didn’t want to get into.)
What else do you do?
Well, I’ve just been trawling through historical archives getting images and footage for a client.
So what would you call that then?
I don’t know, you tell me!
You can see where this is going, can’t you? Because what I do is such a mixed bag of things, I don’t fit neatly into pre-defined categories which are worked out by – let’s face it – Bean Counters. “Specialist Generalist” is not something they can wrap their heads around.
We ended up settling on some anodyne-sounding ‘professional services’ category. Whatever. I asked what they needed a category for, and it seemed to be mostly for statistical purposes. Fine, but if I don’t fit properly into any of the categories, I’m hardly going to help any statistical analysis am I?
So what, you ask? It’s not going to make any difference in the general scheme of things. If I keep my receipts and pay my taxes on time, no men-in-white-pinstripes are going to come and get me.
But it does get me thinking – how many of us don’t neatly fit into these boxes? My experience says – LOTS. So how useful are they? Are all these neat little categories making some people’s life a lot harder, just so it can make some other people’s lives a little easier?
And what about if those boxes were on a grant application, for something really innovative and new? Would it never get past the first round-file-filter, just because no-one could find a neat ‘box’ to put it in?
Now that would be a real shame.