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You'd better not mess with Captain Flummox! So, I got a letter from the Australian Tax Office that my 2008/2009 tax-return needed to be resubmitted. The problem that I’m having is figuring out exactly where on the form to put an income figure.

No, not Second Life profits – that part’s easy. The problem is writing.

All those articles that I wrote for AOL? Seems that the income from them could be recorded under a number of possible categories. I couldn’t figure out which from the guidance and instructions and self-help provided with the forms and on the Tax Office Web-site, so I called first-thing this-morning when the ATO opened.

That was 8am. It’s now 4:40pm – at the time I’m writing this – and I’ve only just now gotten off the phone. I managed to nap twice while I was on hold.

The good news is that it isn’t just me being easily confused or missing the obvious. The front-line person who fielded the question was flummoxed, as if I had presented a five-dimensional puzzle-box containing a quantity of money. Solve the puzzle, and the money is… well, subject to tax. Under what category and at what rate? Well, now… that’s the puzzle.

The problem was escalated to a more specialist team. With incisive questioning, and deft manipulations of the puzzle, they too discovered that they had no idea either. Had I been overseas? No. Was it wages or salary? No. Was I a special professional? Well, you tell me. At the end, three possible income-reporting categories had become five, and none of them seemed to fit any better than any other.

A third, yet more specialised team stroked their high, elongated foreheads, pulsating mightily with their highly developed brains. At their slightest whim, data and evaluation criteria flew to their spidery fingers, their collective intellect networked and they cut right to the heart of the matter. Had I been overseas? No. Was it wages or salary? No. Was I – Well, you get the idea.

Vaster, more remote and lofty intellects than these will have to consider the situation, before finally engraving a judgement that shall stand for all time. So, I’m getting a call back in the next couple of days.

The issue is a simple one. I wrote articles for AOL under a contract, without being an employee. They paid me. I continued to reside on these fair shores, and the Internet was our medium – though it wouldn’t apparently matter if it was the telephone or tin-cans connected with string. The whole shooting-match was derailed long before the Internet ever turned up.

The bad news is that I think I’d dumped the whole lot under Income and Allowances previously, and nobody at the ATO had batted an eyelid or had a problem with it – it’s only when I asked if that was actually where it should be going that Captain Flummox ran onto the scene and started zapping everyone in sight with his confounding Perplexity Ray.

I hope this gets sorted soon. I’ve got until the end of the week to do the electronic submission of my 2009/2010 return, which is awaiting the same answer.

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Categories: Blog/Blogging, Personal.

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