Miles Kington: All you need to know about your end-of-year tax return

They discovered that, from a tax point of view, it would be advantageous if Peter Hain held on until near the end of the month before resigning
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Q. Why is the end of the tax year in January?

A. It isn't. It's in April.

Q. Oh. So, why is the end of the tax year in April?

A. It isn't. It's in December.

Q. It cannot be at the end of all those months!

A. Oh yes, it can!

Q. Oh, no, it can't ... No. hold on, we seem to have got on to the end of the pantomime year!

A. It can be at the end of any month you like, especially if you are doing "Humpty Dumpty". It all depends which tax system you were working under. It depends in which month your tax details were stolen. It depends in which month your private and personal tax details were left on a laptop computer in the back of an unlocked car somewhere in the north-East of England. It depends what country you come from ...

Q. How can your nationality make a difference to your tax declaration?

A. Well, I don't know if you were watching the men's final of the Australian Tennis Open the other day ...

Q. At the weekend? Where the new young French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came from nowhere and damned near beat the new young Serbian star Novak Djokovic?

A. That's the one. Well, I don't know what your initial reaction to the match was ...

Q. Oh, I do. I thought to myself: When was the last time anyone called Novak faced anyone called Jo-Wilfried in a big tennis match anywhere?

A. Was it? Well, mine wasn't. My initial reaction was to notice that Djokovic's first reaction was to throw his racquet into the crowd.

Q. Yes, I noticed that too. Blimey, I thought – someone's going to get hurt here! These modern racquets are cutting-edge technology – and when I say "cutting edge", I mean "cutting edge"! Wham! Someone's head goes flying! Is that what you meant?

A. Well, no, not really. What I thought was: Hello, I wonder if the Serbian tax declaration year ends in January?

Q. January?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Because it would be the best time to discard your surplus racquets and to get the moment recorded on film! I don't know if you noticed but he didn't just discard one racquet – he threw away any racquet he could lay his hands on! Wham! Hundreds of pounds worth! Into the crowd!

Q. Hmmmmm ... Is that a legitimate expense, to throw away the tools of your trade?

A. Oh, yes, for publicity purposes, I am sure it is. I bet that before he went out for the final, Djokovic's coach had a little whisper in his ear and said: "Now, whether you win or lose, and I am sure we all hope you win, the one important thing to remember at the end is to chuck anything you find under your chair into the crowd! For tax reasons!'

Q. That's ridiculous!

A. Of course it is. All tax regulations are ridiculous. That's why Peter Hain waited until the end of January to resign.

Q. I'm sorry?

A. No, you're not. Nobody is sorry about Peter Hain resigning. Except Peter Hain's tax accountant.

Q. I'm sorry?

A. Obviously, they discovered that from a tax point of view that it would be advantageous if Peter Hain held on as close as possible to the end of the month before resigning in order to get all the tax advantages from his fund collecting for his campaign to become deputy leader of the Labour Party. So at least the accountant would come out of it all quite well.

Q. Why?

A. Well, he might not have got it all on film, as Djokovic did with his scattering racquets into the crowd, but at least he got it all in the papers, all duly signed and dated and recorded. No one ever mentioned the real reason, of course. When the headlines demanded to know why Peter Hain did not resign, his accountant never said: "For tax reasons, of course! Now leave the poor boy alone!"

Q. Well, it sort of makes sense ...

Today we have dealt with the Serbian tax year, and with Peter Hain. Tomorrow, with everyone else.