Stuffing receipts in envelopes is not effective accounting

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It’s that awful time of year again when the nation’s self-employed face up to the fact that, unless they get their act together pretty sharpish, HMRC will be snorting down their necks looking for tax and, even worse, fines.

The tax weekend is pretty standard in my house. Everyone ignores me as I take up a mathematician’s residency in my spare room, drowning in the middle of a paper sea, wondering quite why I believe that stuffing receipts into envelopes all year long is effective accounting.

Because it’s not.

In fact, it’s such a bad method that even my teenage son looked at the mess and advised me to spend just 20 minutes a week and all this would go away.

‘It would be so much simpler’ according to him.

Have you ever seen a grown woman snarl? I think I could get a part in the next Marvel movie as some archetypal bad girl, such was the believability of my tax angst.

My son backed away at speed and, I’d like to say, later left a conciliatory cup of tea outside the door. But he didn’t.

Instead he watched movies with his mates all afternoon and stuffed his face with popcorn as he’d finished his homework for the week, unlike me who was still completing mine.

Of course he’s right, I should complete my accounts on a regular basis in the same way I tell him to get on with homework before it’s due and not leave it all until the last minute.

But who practices what they preach? Not many people as far as I can tell.

When I was finally done – notes unfolded, numbers collated and entered on to a spreadsheet, all calculated, new pile of receipts discovered, then a pile more re-started and finished – I was amazed.

When I logged on to the tax website it kindly reminded me when I had last visited.

A year ago to the day – but four minutes later.

How weird is that? Perhaps there is some underlying psychic moment that grips the country of a Sunday morning on a crisp January – one that makes us all want to wake up and fiddle around with bits of paper and bank statements and decipher curious notes.