Diary

The Phat Stacks

03 February 2018 | Diary

I’ve been having a frustrating time this week with taxes.

As a recidivist wastrel, filing my tax return is usually straightforward. I just pop my income and expenses into the online self-assessment thingy with one hand while eating a burrito with the other.

My earnings tend to be minuscule compared to those of normal, non-workshy people so the tax office usually ends up sending me a cheque each year for two-hundred pounds or so, presumably out of pity.

When I file, a siren goes off somewhere and besuited officials, examining the read-out, shout things like “Good God! Get this kid a rebate! Now!”

And that is how I like it.

This week, however, on conducting my annual heist, I got nasty shock. Apparently I owe them two-thousand pounds. Her Majesty’s RC is taking back everything I’ve ever taken from them, and probably more. I’ve never had a bill of this order in my entire life so it hit me like a diesel locomotive hits a medium-sized serving of chocolate profiteroles.

It turns out I’ve been making phat stacks.

“It turns out,” I call to Samara who is in the other room, perhaps anticipating debris, “that I’ve been making phat stacks.”

“Fat what?” she said.

“Stacks!” I said, “Phat stacks.”

Hah. “Fat” stacks indeed. The very thought.

“Where did you learn an expression like that?” she asked, rounding the corner, bringing a concerned expression along for the ride.

“It’s what the gangsters say,” I explained.

“Oh yes,” she said, “You’ve been watching Breaking Bad.”

Samara knows what I watch because we have the same Netflix account. I’ve been horsing Breaking Bad in five-episode sittings because I’m supposed to be writing another book, an art form best left until the last possible minute.

“No I haven’t,” I said.

Truth be told, this television programme is getting me too excited. In anticipation of next year’s tax return, my German publisher gave me an exemption form “to be signed by HMRC.” I didn’t really understand what this meant, but because of Breaking Bad my instinct was to visit the offices of HMRC, drag someone out of the building and make them dig their own grave in the desert.

I marched out full of determination but, naturally, when I got there, the approach I settled on involved gingerly approaching the security guard I found reading the Metro with his feet up on the desk, and begging to speak to “a Tax Man,” which in hindsight I realise is probably what children call them.

“You can’t do that,” he sighed as if for the hundredth time today, “It’s got to go in the post.”

I thanked him and left. The building completely failed to explode behind me.

It’s a good job it didn’t explode really, because if it had I wouldn’t have spotted the curled and sun-faded poster pinned to an information board outside explaining that HMRC had closed all of its offices to the public four years ago and that I should call an 0845 number instead.

I walked home where I kissed Samara on the cheek, dialled the number, and patiently listened to “Greensleeves” for twenty minutes, still feeling inexplicably like a tough guy.

The telephone agent told me to put the form in the post.

Phat Stacks are more trouble than they are worth.