I’ve been contemplating writing a blog post on income tax for so long, but put it off due to the fact that.. Well, I couldn’t write it with the same positive, optimistic tone of my usual blog posts. Why? Because it’s a rather confronting topic, where most people realise that everything is their fault.
If you’re a calm, humble person, you’ll accept and learn from it. You’ll even thank the person informing you for enlightening you of how income tax works.
If you’re not, you’ll throw a f**king fit and scream at the customer service officer at the other end of the phone as if they are personally responsible for your taxes and your tax bills.
Let’s start from the beginning. In the early years of my career, I used to receive a tax refund every year. But one year, I didn’t, so I asked my tax intermediary why.
“A tax refund every year isn’t guaranteed,” they told me. “It depends on if you have paid the right amount of tax throughout the year. If you have overpaid your taxes, that’s when you get a tax refund.”
I thanked them and moved on with my life.
(I now know that it’s likely when my income went over the $48,000 mark and made me no longer eligible for the IETC – Independent Earner’s Tax Credit. More on this later.)
Who knew that years later, I’d find myself working for the national tax department, explaining people’s tax bills and tax refunds to them on a daily basis? I was recently very surprised to discover that even a friend who was an experienced chartered accountant didn’t understand their tax bill – saying “Why do I have it? I only have PAYE income.”
It’s not the fact that they said it. It’s the fact that they said it coming from a place where they were already assuming everything was IRD’s fault. Some people, on the other hand, open-mindedly and kindly ask, “I don’t get this – could you please help me understand?”
So here are some things I want to preface this blog with:
- Stop complaining about the government. You’re not edgy.
- Stop trying to put the blame on the government, or your Kiwisaver provider, or your bank, or your employer. Taking responsibility for your own finances is life-changing.
- Stop thinking of the IRD as bad, greedy people. They are literally as neutral as you can get; and have no agenda at all. Tax intermediaries are not bad, greedy people either – but they definitely can be when they charge people to file income tax returns that are extremely easy to learn.
- IRD doesn’t hate you. IRD doesn’t love you, either. Most people don’t realise that IRD doesn’t take people’s taxes – IRD only collects information about people’s taxes, and fixes them up at the end of each financial year. In fact, there’s a lot of things IRD wishes they could do, but can’t, because they themselves simply do what the government tells them to do. But if you had to say whether IRD was ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Definitely good. IRD’s policies are inherently lenient and compassionate.
(Or, if you asked me where IRD sits on an alignment chart, I’d say neutral good.)
Let’s get started!