taxing questions

Recently I received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs. It was dated 6 April 2012 and told me that it’s now time to complete my tax return for last year. It sets out to different deadlines. If I use paper then I have until 31 October 2012, whereas if I file online I have until 1 January 2013. The letter contains some very strong and severe warnings: if I am one day late I will have to pay a £100 penalty even if I don’t owe any tax. If I am three months late I will receive a daily penalty of £10 per day, up to £900. I am six months late my total penalties will have built up to at least £1300!

I think they want me to file my tax return on time.

What confuses me that this process is that it must surely take longer to complete a tax return on paper than it does online, get the deadlines of the other way around – there is more time for completing online than there is for a paper return.presumably the extended deadline for online filing is to encourage more people to file their tax returns online – I imagine that makes it easier for these tax man or woman to assess my return and saves them having to type it all into their computer.

Of course the reality is most of us put things like filing tax returns off until the last possible moment. I suspect it’s a skill that we learn the first time we are set any homework at school and we carry it through the rest of our lives: putting off the stuff would rather not do and concentrating on things we enjoy doing. Perhaps the tax man or woman would have more of us completing our tax returns sooner rather than later if they turned it into a computer game (although I’m not sure I want to get a high score!).

I have a feeling a lot of people see faith and God in the same way. They would rather not have to think about mortality: life and death. So they put it off until later in life. The sad thing about it is not so much that the don’t know when their life will end and so may miss the deadline (pun intended), and small that they can miss out on what Jesus called ‘life in all its fullness’. That’s not principally going to church on Sunday: it’s living life with God constantly involved; seeking and finding support and encouragement when we need it; living according to Jesus’ values and teaching so that will make the most of our life and bless as many others as possible.

Perhaps one of the problems is that Christians and churches have represented to everybody else that ‘life in all its fullness’ is quite boring, tedious, tiresome and onerous. Somehow we have reduced it to church attendance (which a lot of people think is like Songs of Praise where very few people smile) and being a do-gooder. If that was all that following Jesus was about not sure I would be interested in it either. After all anyone can be kind to other people and who wants to spend time somewhere where you’re not allowed to laugh?

This almost brings me to one of my favourite subjects: God’s sense of humour. I would go off on one now, I will simply quote Martin Luther (allegedly) who said, “If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven I don’t want to go there.”

Amen brother! Preach it! Surely following Jesus is meant to be a foretaste of heaven. And I think that many people find that most effectively through Christians with whom they work and study. People who are good free samples of Jesus. That’s you and I.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The local pub landlord was so sure that his barman was the strongest man around that he  offered a standing £1000 bet.

The barman would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice out would win the money.

Many people had tried over time (weightlifters, soldiers, etc.), but nobody could do it.

One day this scrawny little man came in, wearing thick glasses and a polyester suit, and said in a tiny, squeaky voice, “I’d like to try the bet.”

After the laughter had died down, the barman said, “OK,” grabbed a lemon, and squeezed away. Then he handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the little man.

But the crowd’s laughter turned to total silence as the man clenched his fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass.

As the crowd cheered, the barman paid the £1000, and asked the little man, “What do you do for a living? Are you an athlete, a weightlifter, or what?”

The man replied, “I work for HM Revenue and Customs.”


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