Monday, August 15, 2011

The smallest of changes

I made a tiny wee addition to my blog site today, and wonder who will be the first to spot what it is? Some people have had some hints.

My workout today was struggling with tax paperwork for my business. I thought I was all ready to go, but I'd made a couple mistakes, and my accountant slapped me around in the amiable way that accountants have. But how they expect normal people to understand the nightmare world that accountants live in, let alone the tax world, is beyond me.

Let's take a simple example. Calgary has a really, really slick parking system, except for the odd occasion it doesn't work. I park. I click a button on my phone. I tell the Park Plus system which lot I'm in. It tells me how long my parking is good for. I hang up and walk away. It takes about 20 seconds. In fact, I'm usually walking away when I make the call.

At the end of the day, as I'm walking to the car I phone the system, and tell it my session is over. That takes about 15 seconds. And, AND, it refunds me any money that is left from session minutes I didn't use. How cool is that?

So for my day to day parking, I pay $15, and $2 is returned at the end of the day. That is fairly inexpensive parking in downtown Calgary. Parking across the road in Gulf Canada is net $22 a day, and if I was to be so foolish as to park in the building I work in, I think it's net $27 for the day. Ouch.

You are warned when your account is running low and you can top it up from your credit card. The system gives you a report of your activity, and this is where I get grumpy. The report was created by an accountant. Nowhere on there does it tell me what I actually paid for parking for the month. It shows an opening balance. It shows a debit and credit for each day. It shows a credit when I top up the account. It shows the account balance at the end of the month.

The arithmetic to calculate how much was actually paid for parking is simple by accounting standards, but is arcane by human standards. You have to take the total credit, subtract what you paid into the account, and then subtract that from the total debit, and then toss in an eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing, and if you haven't made any mistakes at all, you find out how much you paid for parking. If you're lucky. Repeat for each month.

I wasn't, a bunch of times in a row. Which is why I dropped out of the accounting class. I can see that it all sort of makes sense, in a theoretical way, and that it's all supposed to balance. Yet credits and debits are a mystery to me. I have never in my life understood what they are, or how to decide if a particular item is one or the other, let alone if it can be fully or partially expensed, deducted, or claimed for a capital loss under the provision of some bit of the tax codes that no human fully understands.

Which is complete nonsense. The report ought to have a line at the bottom that does the math, and states how much was actually paid for parking. Which is what humans want to know. Computers are good at math. There are people who figure out such things to teach computers how to do it, and like doing it. Let them. Please. In fact, the report should include any given time period, report on each month, and give a grand total for the tax year.

So, it was a bit of a struggle, and no fun at all. This is why I pay someone to do my taxes. It's money well spent, as long as we continue on with allowing the government to force us to track and file the paperwork that makes it easy for them to punish us for breaking rules that nobody understands. We should not be obligated to live our lives in ways to make it easy for governments, or the justice system to decide if we are obeying the law or not.

Do not get me started on meal and entertainment expenses. I hate keeping track of receipts. Hate it!

Well, that turned into a bit of a rant, totally by accident. How nice. I feel better now.

Did anyone notice what the change was?


  1. Woot! October half marathon! (am I right?)

  2. I am sooooo with you on the whole taxes/accounting thing. I don't get it. At all. I could never balance my checkbook (when I had one...isn't that the banks job? They have the big computers...). GAH!

    I think it's the October half too!

  3. I have no idea. I read your blog through Google Reader.

  4. What if you top up your balance at the beginning of each month to a specific amount? Would that make it easier to do? I agree, stupid system.

    Fernie half? Is that the new thing?

  5. It MUST be the Fernie half!!! YAY KEITH!!!! I scrolled way way down afet reading Tiffa's guess.

    You going to stop by for a visit on your way? Hmmmm?

  6. Hey Keith. Grande Prairie indeed! I've ordered some cookbooks. I have a feeling cooking from scratch is gonna be the way to go, especially since I apparently have an egg white allergy as well!

  7. As long as you feel better after the rant, then I feel better for you! LOL...

    Calgary is crazy expensive. When I was out last year for Melissa's, I just closed my eyes and used the credit card. Unlike you, I do my own taxes....I am amazed I am not yet in prison!

    Okay, so I'm looking at Race History, however topping it is the Fernie Half...good on ya!!!

  8. I love/hate the parkplus system.

    You will have to tell me where you park for $13 a day downtown so that when my office moves to that side of the world (new Eighth Avenue Place) at the end of the year I can snag some cheaper parking!!


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