Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Tax Accountant

Tax time is always tinged with sadness. It has nothing to do with the having to account for your fiscal actions once a year. As a control freak and spreadsheeter I'm pretty organised. I have an envelope for my receipts for both my small writing and tarot business and for the day job. It's just a matter of tallying everything up, throwing the numbers into excel and making the appointment with the H & R Block - Tax Accountants.

Every year I march myself down Collins Street to a shabby office next to the glory of a half-neglected theatre. It is here that I have to explain myself to the person who will type my details into a computer and then tell me how much the government think I'm worthy of receiving back. The person who sees me is invariably dressed in a cheap suit that doesn't fit quite right in the shoulders, there might be a bit of a facical tick going on, a mole with a bit too much hair on the chin... They will also be a two finger typist, much to my frustration. Accountancy and typing appear to be mutually exclusive.

Tax Accountants are a breed of their own. They're not the stars of the accountancy world - not the high flying CPAs who run small countries and large corporations. They're not the little bookeepers who go from job to job either. These guys are the ones who Monty Python wrote about. (Monty Python's Accountancy Shanty)

To me, tax accountants have one of the worst jobs in the world. For many, the work is seasonal. It's thankless. You get to deal with stressed people who are bent on stretching the truth. The people in the office don't appear to be a cohesive group.

The office itself feels transient too. Aging, navy, prefab chairs, overflowing filing cabinets, the distince need of a lick of paint, a poster that's stuck on with blue tack and fraying a bit in the edges. There's a rim of dust on the plastic plant.

As you're shuffled into a windowless interview room, you wonder if your experience will be the same as last year. You know it will be - only the misfit tax accountant - perfectly pleasant, though at the same time curtly disinterested, will ask questions in automaton fashion. "How much time do you spent working from home?", "Do you have any charity deductions.", "Hang on, let me check that with my manager.."

You spend an hour with these people. They find out some of your most personal details. You know nothing about them, trusting them with you life in so many ways. It is so much a one way service. The poor tax accountant doesn't seem to get much back from their work from what I can see.

I had a result yesterday. Came out with a couple of thousand dollars in my pocket, perfect for my holiday and the ensuing sabbatical.

But the sense of sadness remains.

My father worked for H & Block as a seasonal tax accountant when I was a teenager.

Did people see him in the same way? Shabby, disinterested little man in a short sleeved, polyester business shirt and work shorts? Something a little neglected about him? I know the frustration he used to feel doing this sort of work, bringing home files, having his office manager regularly call during dinner to berate him, seeing the work dry up in summer, only to come back in June.

I don't think these feelings will ever leave me. Thankfully it's just one day of the year.


Kath Lockett said...

Very well observed, Pandora and I'll admit to also rabidly collecting my receipts but not going as far as putting them into excel - just plastic sleeves which are now gathering dust on the kitchen bench where they've been sitting for a month now.

LOVE THIS: "They will also be a two finger typist, much to my frustration. Accountancy and typing appear to be mutually exclusive." YES!

Pandora Behr said...

Thank you, Kath.
I have admit, two fingered typists are one of my great annoyances. I didn't learn to type until I left uni - best and most useful thing I learned in the whole of those five years. I really hope it's now a compulsory subject.

River said...

My income and outgo is very simple, so I do my own tax form every year.
I'm also a two fingered typist, although I occasionally get going with three or four. Never did learn to type.

Pandora Behr said...

I should have clarified that a little better, River. Slow two fingered typists in professional environments are the bane of my life. I've worked in banks and IT for the last 15 years - it can be quite distressing.
And I wish my tax was simple once again... alas no - ah for simpler times.