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Correspondent’s week

This week by former editor of Money Marketing and managing director of himself, Steve McDowell

It is a funny time of year, this. In your mind’s eye, you can almost see a blanket of poppies twitching forlornly in a wind of remorse as your battered internal organs gratefully sign an armistice with your once fiery need to wield yet more carnage of over-indulgence upon them.

Guilt, redemption and a desire for good are what rules this time of year.

Which is why many of you will now be in “Janopause”, in which you have resolved to never again clap eyes on a mince pie, keep your pinkies off the rich indulgences of your larder and, for at least a month, quit drinking and get more exercise.

Some of you will even have joined a gym. This means by now you will have been three times, the first two made you really stiff and the last was more than a week ago and you feel guilty about that already.

I wonder if it is this cycle that makes membership so expensive. “Yeah” says the little green guilt monster in your head, “135 a month and all you do is sit on your big fat butt. Loser.” The more expensive it is, the more desirable it is, I suppose.

Well, not me, no siree, I’m raring to go for all the big things I have resolved to achieve this year. I hate gyms anyway, all that Lycra and narcissism.

Trouble is, no one else is raring to go. No one is really in much of creative mood (see alcohol, abstinence from, above) and they are more in the business of aligning themselves and marshalling their mental forces for the proper assault on 2006.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and I reach for the organic mountain of tedium in my in-tray. All that dreary yet important stuff you have been lobbing in the in-tray for weeks and, of course, the one thing you have been procrastinating over for the longest time – the dreaded tax return.

Nice reminders from Adam Hart-Davis on the telly – what is he famous for again? – with the veiled threat of another 100 to the Revenue if the return is not in by January 31. Another 100 will not make the slightest difference, I rant bitterly to myself amid demands for VAT, income tax, road tax, corporation tax and the rest. I am sure I have forgotten at least one or two.

Funny, though, how this Government introduced self-assessment to reduce the number of tax officials and then ends up trebling them and the result is greater confusion and inconsistency. But I digress.

Hell, that is what I have an accountant for. But then again, he is as bad as the tax officials. Damned if I know where I put that end of year tax statement from our Abbey joint account (from which we have never been paid more than 15p a month in interest and that is when we are flush). I must produce it, in case we are inspected, he says. That would set the courts in motion. There I am in the dock, charged with underpaying tax on an account which pays less annual interest than the atomic weight of a gnat’s chuff.

Anyway, got to get the stuff off early because the accountant is going skiing for a fortnight. Is that wise at this time of year, I ask myself. Surely he has other clients who are as disorganised as me? Perhaps not. Is he in league with the Revenue? Perhaps he gets a cut of all those 100 for late entries in some demonic pact with the evil, scaly inspector of taxes.

Oh stop it. Just get on with it for crying out loud or you will never get it done. Now then. Concentrate. Details of dividend income ex company to year- end 2005. Zzzzzzzzz.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: paul.mcmillan@centaur.co.uk or telephone: 020 7970 4776

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