Belfast Telegraph

The lovely tax man's holiday is now on me

It is not easy being a freelance columnist. First, there is the deadline that looms each and every week without fail, and then there are the slings and arrows of readers to bear when they do not like what you have written.

But the worst of it has to be the tax man. One of the few pleasures of freelancing used to be that you could tot up your earnings as you went along, safe in the knowledge that you could squirrel away your stash and square up with HMG at the end of the year.

No longer. The tax man, in his infinite wisdom, has now decided to tax freelance earnings before they are earned. It's an unusual system, you will admit, charging people tax on work they have not actually done.

This year I have had to pay last year's tax in January, plus an instalment towards this year's and, it gets even better, I must make a second payment in July.

I can then live in hope at the end of the year that I will get a rebate - though I will not be holding my breath.

Like everyone, I hate paying tax, but do so in the hope that it provides a better health service or some other worthy service (knowing my luck, my tax probably helps fund the tax office).

However, it is bad enough having to pay tax retrospectively, but having to pay it before I put pen to paper is even more galling. Would any civil servant, teacher or nurse be happy to pay tax on their salary before they have worked? And if paying tax in January is not bad enough, then having to cough up more in the summer is worse. It is the ultimate double-whammy - a hefty bill in the tightest month of the year followed by another in the summer.

The tax man has obviously never heard of summer holidays and the demands they put on the family purse.

He has of course, but he does not have to worry because my money (and the interest it accrues) is paying his salary and he can enjoy his holidays. Happy to help out.

Now, excuse me while I earn a crust to pay the summer bill. Talk about being a wage slave.

Who shares wins

When I used to take school dinners, one of the elder boys was always responsible for dishing up the food. The grub would arrive at the table, already cooked, the server would inspect each tray with the care and attention it deserved and begin to dole out the nosh he did not order, prepare or cook. He was responsible for it only in so far as it was taken to his table. There were of course arguments about who was getting what. Usually, the server took no heed. He was the big man with the big spoon and if you did not like it you could go and sit somewhere else – except of course you could not. A lot like Peter Robinson and his budget.

It's the beautiful game after all

Have television station, Five, found the perfect way to encourage men to study Italian? Five show live Italian football of a Sunday afternoon and have hit upon the novel idea of having presenter, Laura Esposto, read the half-time results in her native tongue: Juventus uno; Milan uno.

The limitation of the lesson is obvious: unless one team trounces another, there is little chance that the viewers will ever get past four or five. Of course, it does not detract from the lesson the fact that Ms Esposto (right) is - how shall I say this - absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. The presenter is also a former model and caught Five's eye - and everyone else's no doubt - while presenting on AC Milan's television channel. Needless to say, some unkind comments have appeared on football italiano's website suggesting that she is only there because she looks good.

Knowing nothing about football I cannot judge how know- ledgeable she is about the off-side rule. I can safely say, however, that I have noticed a miraculous improvement in my long forgotten school Italian: "Ciao, bella. Mi chiamo Paolo¿"

A Whiley way of fooling listeners

The Beeb is in trouble again for faking another competition. Comedian Russell Brand and disc jockey (are they still called disc jockeys in the digital age?) Jo Whiley invited listeners to text in to their 'live' competitions on their radio shows. Unfortunately, the shows were pre-recorded. The BBC is to issue another apology. I would just like to assure readers that this column is never pre-recorded and is always written live.

Marty Mc: a Deputy First Minister's blog

Bad week at the office. Heard that a senior Stormont adviser had referred to me as "the Anti-Christ". I was not too pleased that such language was still in use. After all, even the cops have been given directions not to use phrases like 'Fenian, Hun and Jaffa'. (What about blue nose? Is blue nose banned too?) Anyway, I paced the halls of Stormont to find out who was calling me the Anti-Christ. The cheek of it. Everyone knows I am a chuckle a minute and that Mark Durkan is the Anti-Christ. I was delighted to find out that the senior adviser was not referring to me but the Pope. Thank goodness for that. I would hate to think there was someone out there who disliked me personally. Must ask Ian what he makes of it all - that is, when he is not too busy talking to Catholic priests.

Paris Hilton: cultural attaché to Ulster

I am continuing my efforts to come to grip with local culture. This week I took up a game called camogie. I had hoped after last week's Up Down session that I might make a GAA work-out video. Camogie is a bit like Korean stick fighting but a lot more dangerous. These mad women run around the place with big wooden sticks, shouting ancient Irish curses: "Driveitovertheallannemariedriveit!" and "dontletthatheiferpassyoukerrieanne". And they wear the most awful uniforms known to women, horrible coloured tops that do nothing to flatter the figure. Beach volley ball it is not. And that is not the worse of it. Not only are you at risk of getting hit by a stick but you have to wear a helmet. My hair is just a mess! There is like no way I am shooting a video in these conditions.

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