On the Closure of Books


Today was not a day for reflection.

Instead, I closed the books for November and meticulously began filling out the studio’s tax returns for the month. While I have steadfastly refused to write almost anything by hand since university (I was typing notes back then on my personal digital assistant, which came with a foldable keyboard for rabidly fast data entry), I have paradoxically insisted on manually filling out my tax returns (in triplicate too, on top of everything else).

Of all the things I’ve learned to do this year, filling out and filing tax returns has been the least welcome. The Byzantine complexity of the Philippine tax code (opaque to even bookkeepers and tax revenue officials themselves) has made learning the skill of tax accounting impervious to the usual methods of self-study. The entire system flouts all the rules of common sense—my visits to the local revenue district office have often felt like forays into a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel or Salvador Dali painting. Just as in the reception of magic realist literature or surrealist art, what works is to suspend disbelief, to suspend logic, to accept the absurd with equanimity and grace, to accept the fact that one has entered an alien world with its own singular laws.

In any case, through sheer—and mind-bogglingly expensive—trial and error, I’ve finally learned how to do my returns, and with a fair degree of proficiency too. I can actually make distinctions between the different types of taxes and the various kinds of forms; I can recite the deadlines for the submission of returns and payments more readily than I can recite the birthdays of my closest friends. (Before you judge me too harshly, consider that there are no fines to be paid from missing a friend’s birthday. Also, Facebook has assumed the burden of memorializing all the birthdates of our loved ones. Now, our only sacrosanct duty is to log in to our accounts at least once a day. Heaven forbid we lose our Internet connection on the dates of our anniversaries.)

So yes, it was not a day for reflection. But it was a reflective day nonetheless.

Thank God.

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