Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On writing, poultry and stabbing

This writing lark is, quite frankly, not all it is cracked up to be. I am sadly lacking in freezing garret or a beret or any of the various French things ending in “et” I have been told go with the trade.

I have been doing some research on what I can claim on my tax for 2009, being in the rather annoying situation of having outlaid more cash in the last tax year (some) than I earned (none). This means I am unlikely to be able to afford a garret or a beret in the near future, unless I can work out a way to claim deductions for writing that no one is willing to pay for.

The Australian Tax Office is website is not being as helpful as one would expect. For a start, a search for publications on tax for unpaid writers is, ironically, unwritten. The words “freelance”, “writer” or “artiste, dammit” bring up no results. It appears that the Australian tax office only wishes to clarify matters for either that rarest of beasties, the employed writer. That and performance artists, presumably on the grounds that they would prefer performance artists do not come into the tax office to ask questions.

Performance artists do not deal well with the real world. My one and only experience in working with performance artist ended with group electing to fellate invisible people while stabbing raw poultry in a glass shed in the depths of an Irish winter. Our audience looked stunned. Also poultry covered. I assume that the Australian Tax Office does not want this to happen. Perhaps they are vegetarian. Perhaps they are worried all that stabbing would lead to RSI. Perhaps they think Australia is too hot and the chicken will go off. Anyway, I digress.

Well, of course I digress. I am a writer, darling. It’s my job! And not any writer, not one of those tamed by a paycheck, those sell-outs, those hacks, those literature whores, selling their corrupted malformed mercenary words to the highest bidder. No, I am that purest of things – an unpaid writer! I write, darling, for the love of the craft! My stories must be told, my voice will not be silenced. I will not let the petty hatred of the Man and his unwillingness to pay for my prose affect my confidence in anyway. I am a writer, and the total lack of any acclaim, reward, remuneration or even acknowledgement will not stop me, oh no. I will stab my pen into the poultry of society’s disregard for my Art and I will persevere!

However, my art requires supplies. Paper, stamps, absinthe, knives, chicken thighs, the usual. So I have, reluctantly, set aside my muse and looked through tax rulings. I find no guiding light, no poetry to balm my wounded sensibilities, only the cold case studies of the Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2004/D12 (finalised). Searching for clarity, I find only a ruling on a woman called TBRD - a housewife and author. The ruling states:

”For five years the taxpayer had been earning income from writing while being a housewife. Although engaged in the ordinary duties of a housewife, she earned a few pounds from newspaper articles, poetry, an occasional short story, and radio plays ... besides being interested in the creative side of her writing, she was also much interested in the financial returns... the taxpayer has been in the habit of exploiting her literary talent by writing (in various forms) for gain. In other words she has been exercising a 'profession'… a career of earning money by her pen”.

I, too, intend to earn money by my pen, I shall find this TBRD, this housewife, this dabbler, who steals my commissions. This bitch, this copy-girl, whose occasional forays into the field block my own pearls of prose from their rightful place in publication. I will bring my pen, and ready myself to stab.

TBRD, I am coming for you. And when I do, it’s all going to go poultry shaped.


  1. Ahhh ... you make me laugh. A freelance writer is a sole trader. Have you got an ABN? If so, you can get a tax deduction for anything that applies for a sole trader. You don't have to register for the GST if you're earnings are under $70k gross (I think!). Check that one out.

  2. By that I mean latching on to this or that latest, most innovative idea that some self styled money making guru has put out in the hope it’ll go viral and make them a lot of money off the backs of all the headless chickens who will follow them blindly down a blind alley. Its a shame but a truism nonetheless that people will follow where someone they see as an expert leads. Even if they lead them to certain disaster, which is what most of the gurus tend to do to their flocks.
    The trick is to recognize a shadow when you see it!