Tim Key: Who knew that filling in my tax return could be such a trip down memory lane?


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The Independent Online

Bloody taxes. That's my current situation: doing my bloody taxes.

Outside, a storm rages, sliding my garden furniture along my balcony and flinging leaves and litter against my windows. And inside: a columnist. Sat in his study, candle-lit and surrounded by freezer bags brim-full of receipts. His cheeks ruddy, flickering amber from the flame, the columnist unfolds these scraps, analyses them, decides whether or not they are deductible, and stabs them down on to his bill spike. He's smiling, weirdly. He's actually quite enjoying it now. He's into it.

That columnist is me, clearly. And after a shaky start I am now positively purring. I've put a classical music record on, I've made myself a mocha and I am turning this tedious task from grim necessity into something joyous. I am reminiscing.

As I unfurl each receipt and highlight the date and price, I also allow myself to swim back into its depths. Each receipt is a moment in time, a transaction, but it's also a memory. I'm looking at one now – £15.50. A taxi ride from W1D to NW5. Boring old receipt, right? But then I remember the can of Red Stripe we were secretly drinking inside the cab, the magician we had just been overwhelmed by in the theatre, the sing-along we got going with the cabby. I stroke the receipt affectionately. It is a portal into another age. Probably can't claim that one.

I'm dewy-eyed now, sure. But three hours ago, I approached this task with a fairly generous dollop of frowning pessimism. I squatted down in my nest of receipts like a sad little thrush. Dabbing my beak furtively into the piles, it was a grim prospect. Occasionally I would peck out a receipt, spit on it and tut. So boring. I perched on my rug, ruing my self-employed status and glaring at my freezer bags. Of course, being self-employed has its pros. You feel heroic. You don't have to go to work. There are no office Christmas parties. But this is a downside. Bloody taxes. Still, I closed my eyes and got on with it. I constructed a mocha, I fired up my Excel and, quite quickly, I began to love it.

As I pour these receipts into my grids, it's all coming flooding back. £15 – LUL – Oyster top-up. En route to visiting my godson to teach him football skills. £32.33 – TINTO – One-course dinner. In Riga. In a snowstorm. £6.99 – MAPLINS – A cable. Needed to transfer some files in order to project on to a screen.

The memories. It's actually beginning to feel more like a slide show than unavoidable admin.

At the end of each year my old man would always haul his unwieldy screen down to the lounge and crank up his 1970s projector. He'd fill its carousel with slides he'd taken on holidays that year and project them on to his screen. We'd sit drinking squash and listen to him as he shouted over the roar of the projector. Tears would flow down our cheeks as we remembered the good times.

And so it is now, as I ram receipts for Boris Bikes, cinema tickets and notepads down on to this spike.

My accountant will of course sift through my garbage with his professional eyes and ensure I claim only what I am entitled to. That side of it confuses me. Instinctively, I always feel that I shouldn't claim for things that were fun and have every right to claw back things that were dull. There's a train-trip to Edinburgh here that I'm sure should go in, but I remember it was a laugh so it doesn't feel right. Meanwhile, I have receipts here for a holiday in Suffolk. I don't think I'm entitled to claim a holiday, but it was boring as hell so I feel like I should.

In truth, I'm just trying to string this out for as long as possible. I'm shuffling my receipts round like treasured cigarette cards. Staring misty-eyed at them one last time. Then, finally, immortalising them in my spreadsheet. And spiking them.