Saturday, May 11, 2019

Sudden, Violent Death - and taxes.

With March 31 behind us and May 30 ahead of us, 'tis the season for tax returns, and thus the following story which I put forward for your amusement.

Several years ago, working around the crawlspace under a family house, I found an old ammo box. Undoubtedly purchased from an Army Surplus store, this had apparently been a storage space for some of my parent's papers, all safe, dry and secure. A quick glance revealed that they were mainly old financial documents; packets organised by year and probably returned from the accountant after each year's tax workings.

I grabbed one at random and dragged it inside the house, but it was not until a few months ago, while relaxing in the evening with a glass of red wine, that I unwrapped the package and began to work through the documents. Most of it was the simple detritus of a farming business life: invoices and receipts from the likes of machinery suppliers, stock and station agents and so forth. But one paper grabbed my attention because it was from the IRD - in those days the Land and Income Tax Department.

Dated 28th February 1948, the letter opens by explaining to my Dad that the money he'd got from the wool and lambs, which had repaid loans without ever touching his bank account, still counted as income. There's also some stuff about how legal expenses and stamp duty are not tax deductible. This is not America after all.

But then it becomes fun as the Commissioner of Taxes reveals that they've reviewed his files and,  (say it in your best Vogon voice) regrettably must inform Dad that upon being released from the armed forces, they had failed to inform him of his pre-war tax liability.


Turns out he owed income tax for 1939, almost a decade earlier. But it was the language used to inform him in the fifth paragraph that got me: a rendition of bureaucratic understatement so perfect that it's pity that Sir Nigel Hawthorne is not still alive to read it in the manner of his character, Sir Humphrey Appleby, GCB, KBE, MVO, MA (Oxon):
My records show, and doubtless you will recollect, that at the time of your entry into the armed forces, there was an amount of £9.17.5d owing by you for income tax in respect of income derived during the year ended 31st March 1939.

"...and doubtless you will recollect, ..."

Sure. While Dad was ploughing through North African sand drifts in his Bren Carrier, getting shot up by a fucking Mark IV, captured, dumped in one fucking POW camp after another through Italy, jumping out of transport trains enroute to Germany, damned near dying of blood poisoning and fuck knows what else on the way to recapture in Yugoslavia and a sort of peace in Stalag IVB before it all mercifully comes to an end, I'll bet it was never far from his mind that he'd gypped the New Zealand Government out of £9. 17. 5d back in 1939, and that he'd better attend to that quick smart as soon as he got home.

The letter goes on to say that many other service members were in the same boat but have since paid up, that the Commissioner is sure Dad would agree that it would be inequitable if some paid and others did not, and that hardship provisions can be applied if necessary.

Which is all fair enough. But FFS, "and doubtless you will recollect."

He also points out that his job is to get all members of the community to pay income tax. That ancient notion also brought forth much hearty laughter on my part.


11 comments:

The Veteran said...

Hmmmmm .... so it only took 'them' 7 months to reply to the letter. One has to wonder what their position would have been should had your Dad paid the supreme sacrifice. I suspect I know the answer.

Kimbo said...

Reminiscent of the story of Scottish rugby player and later journalist Jock Wemyss, who played for Scotland on ether side of the Great War, despite losing an eye in that conflict. On his first international back after the war he waited to be given his jersey, but none was handed to him. On asking why, he was the told,

“According to our records you were issued with a jersey in the last season you played in 1914. Where is it?”

“I don’t know, that was six years ago...and since then I’ve been fighting in the war!”

“That’s no excuse. You’ll have to pay ten shillings for a new one”.

Tom Hunter said...

@Kimbo
There's a reason for jokes about "being Scotch" in terms of money!

Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

Having a bit of trouble with your post Chunter apart from the fact that in 1940 and fifty's NZ the American form of address using the initial of the middle name was never ever used.

Now lets see, your dad joined the NZ Police Force as a probationary constable in 1937 and become a fully fledged detective in less than two years...well done him. Off he goes to war and gets himself captured at Sidi Rezegh on 13.12.41 and interned in Campo 57 Italy (Pte TG Hunter 24090). Finished the war in Germany and would have returned to NZ in 1945 with most of the POWs just in time to receive a letter from the revenue dated 28th FEB 1945 in answer to a letter he sent in 1944 (6th July) about lambs a and building depreciation which means this particular Tom Hunter was never a POW unless he owned the famous Hunter family time machine.

Apart from the fact that you admit TOM HUNTER is an alias for blog purposes you seem to have missed the bit about WW2 ending on Sept 2 1944.

Building the legend needs a bit more work Tommo



Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

It now appears that 24090 Hunter T.G. 24th Inf Bn. captured at Sidi Rezegh was an unemployed civilian on enlistment in 1939....wonder why he was chucked off the force and lost the farm.

First batch of POWS from Germany arrived home in May 1945 with all of them back by end of August.

As I said previously, you are a collector and collator of other peoples lives.

Tom Hunter said...

Come on Count Eggula

Just admit that this detective work of yours is much more fun for you than solving the Crosswords and Sodoku puzzles in the retirement home

Anonymous said...

If Tom Hunter is an alias, then it makes all that detective work a waste of time.
None of my family went to war that I know of. My Grandfather was born in 1901, and my father was born in 1934.

Oddball

workingman said...

Lord Egbut Nobacon,

I think your eyesite may need improving. To me it looks like the letter is written in 1948, not 1945.

Workingman

Snowflake said...

Yeah, it is 1948. Egbut is sounding like a birther. Of course Tommy can put all this to rest by simply presenting his birth certificate (long form) for forensic analysis. What’s he hiding?

Tom Hunter said...

Of course Tommy can put all this to rest by simply presenting his birth certificate (long form) for forensic analysis. What’s he hiding?

Ok, now that caused me to piss myself laughing. Brilliant. Well done snowflake.

Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

I often wonder why people like Chunter go to such extraordinary lengths to photo shop and invent stuff in order to be accepted by a blog. It's not as though blogs have any actual affect on the population that reads them.

I don't really care what he says accept that in this case two of my family, RAF and RNZAF, were POW's in Germany and one took part in the infamous long march and bore the scars of dog bites on his legs until the day he died.

Veteran usually gets a bit steamy over stolen valour as does TTSS so I am wondering about the silence..

Just a point about the US nomenclature of first name, middle initial and last name which was very exotic in NZ, still is I think, I always used to think that the G in Edward G. Robinson stood for gangster.

Hopefully we have put the mythical daddy to bed and we will hear no more of him or his Bren gun carrier.