Tax Office follies

Over the course of the past week I exercised my darkest masochistic tendencies by indulging in a series of telephone conversations with the fine people of the Australian Tax Office. Matters that had initially seemed straightforward became increasingly shrouded in doubt with each successive phone call and I was reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s assertion that in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

My life experiences thus far have revealed the unpleasant truth that we live in a world of rules. Rules that must be followed slavishly or the entire edifice of civilisation might cease in an instant. But my telephonic tax tutors reminded me that we also live in a world that has rules for the interpretation of rules. And, of course, the very necessary rules for the interpretation of the rules for the interpretation of rules.

I had discovered to my detriment that it was of no consequence that our kindly benefactor, the Commissioner for Taxation, may have magnanimously provided some insight into the rules for the interpretation of rules on the ATO website. Not when the unspoken rules for the interpretation of the rules for the interpretation of rules provided the crystal clarity of mud. Or of mud wrapped in a thick lead blanket, buried deeply in a trench and covered in a luxuriant layer of even more mud.

Whilst I am eternally indebted to the fine people of the ATO for bringing a convoluted and unnecessarily complex resolution to my simple problem, I also feel grateful that they led me to a philosophic realisation: I would much prefer the sweet release of death to ever paying another cent in tax.

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