So I’ve had an unexpected windfall. Well it’s not exactly a windfall and it’s not like I won anything, but it feels unexpected and sort of lucky. And because of that, I’m keen to give this (ok smallish) sum to charity.
You see a few months back, out of the blue, I received a fine from the ATO (that would be Australian tax office). They can be nice like that. It related to a very small outstanding debt of GST (goods and services tax) from back in 2008/09, when I was working full time for an employer and earned a small amount of business income on the side.
The fine ($550) didn’t specify what GST amount was owed or any other details, and frankly on first look I thought it must have been a mistake. Not wanting to get stuck on hold to the ATO for an hour, I put off enquiring, until I forgot about it!
My accountant had lodged my tax returns every year – I couldn’t imagine I’d possibly owe anything from five years before, and if so why wasn’t it followed up, like four years ago!
Of course the ATO followed up, this time with a warning that they’d refer the debt to a collections agency (funny that the all-powerful ATO would use a collections agency).
Anyway, I was again a bit slow following up, but eventually spoke to someone (who was really very nice) and who sent out a new GST return form to lodge (I still didn’t think I owed anything) and advised me that I could appeal. Finding (that was fun) and then trawling through my old records I found (to my horror) I did in fact owe $290; then fessed up in my letter asking for a remission of the fine – pleading a minor oversight and stating my case as a law-abiding taxpayer for the last zillion years.
By this time I’d lodged my tax return for this year and lo and behold the $290, plus the fine amount was automatically taken out, leaving me with a rather miserable tax refund.
I was resigned to not beating the taxman and cutting back on Christmas, when a letter awaited me on our return from our week away – my request had been approved and the $550 would be returned into credit in my account.
So it’s a windfall, of sorts, and now I feel if the taxman can be generous (well sort of), I want to be generous too.
I’m going to ‘keep’ $50 of the fine remission to spend on a Christmas treat we would have otherwise done without, and find some good ways to give $500 away.
So I thought I’d use this post to plug a few charities while I’m at it.
Rafiki Mwema – I spoke about the gorgeous Sarah Rosberg in this post. I met her in July and have since started a regular sponsorship of this inspiring charity which provides a safe home, support, counselling and love for very young girls who are the victims of sexual abuse in Kenya. The stories are shockingly sad as you can imagine. NB – this isn’t tax deductible at the moment but I am confident the money gets where it needs to go in the most direct way – 100%.
Half the Sky Foundation Australia – Half the Sky is a global charity caring for orphans in China. Of course with our children adopted from China, this cause is very dear to my heart, and in July this year, Half the Sky went into Kunming, Yunnan Province, to establish a program helping to improve the nurturing and education of children in orphanages – our son is from Kunming. Many of the children suffer disabilities and there are a range of issues children usually face growing up in an institutionalised environment.
Kiva Loans – a leg-up, rather than a hand out – Kiva provides micro-finance that helps lift people out of poverty and disadvantage. I’ve made five different loans to women – may sound sexist but I reckon they are often most in need – from Pakistan, Cambodia, Mali, Philippines and Palestine (loans start from $US25 each).
Some of the people I’ve joined in helping include a widow with five children in Cambodia, who with her son is trying to establish a stall to sell/repair mobile phones; a mother of six from Palestine who needs a new sewing machine to help support her family; and a young girl in typhoon-ravaged Philippines who needs to kit out a fishing boat.
Oxfam – We have a monthly sponsorship to support overseas aid and development, from disaster relief to water, sanitation and health programs. I bought Mum and Dad a goat ($39 donation) – we normally don’t do presents, and our two kids chickens ($10 each) – they have a range of other practical support gifts.
Close to home, The Smith Family has been helping disadvantaged kids since 1922 with a big focus on improving educational outcomes (the organisation was started by 5 businessmen who wanted to brighten the lives of orphans at Christmas). This Christmas the Smith Family hopes to deliver 43,500 new toys and 29,000 new books to children in need around Australia.
So that’s it for my charitable plugs – in the spirit of giving, Christmas (and of course paying less tax), I’m certain that when we give we truly receive. What do you think?
Linking up with Essentially Jess for another IBOT. Happy December.