How do you mean, I’m not old enough?

Three weeks ago I received a huge bill from the income tax department. I felt proud of myself. From being unemployed a few years ago, I am now in a high bracket on the income tax scale. It’s true that our income tax steps are close together – and all very steep – but high as it is, you never pay one hundred percent tax. The feelings of accomplishment quickly evaporated when I had to find the money to pay the bill. I called the accountant who helps me with all the messy paperwork and asked him to double-check the amount at the tax department and try and get me a discount, a rebate, anything. He came back two days later saying he had failed.

 “I’ll go in there myself!” I threatened.

“Go,” he said. “You need to see Mr. Rabinovitch on the third floor.” Mr. Rabinovitch was busy on his cell phone when I found his office. He was apparently advising his daughter about the color of the new car she was about to receive from her employer. I stood tapping my fingers on the door frame as he wavered between silver and metallic blue. Finally he closed his phone, looked up and said rudely, “Yes? What do you want?”

I lost it. I stormed into his office and hit his table with my open hand and shouted, “Why am I paying so much tax?”

He was stunned and shouted back, “What do you mean?”

“I’m 78 years old and look at my tax bill! Do I have to work like this to the end?”

He thought for moment and said, “I don’t know if you have to work like that to the end.” He shook a fat finger at me and added, “but you’ll pay tax to the end.” We both laughed and relaxed and I have to say that he did all he could to help me, but the law is the law and age apparently does not count with taxes.

After a depressing year when I sat on the beach every morning and did little for the rest of the day except scan the job ads in the papers, the local rags and the internet with sinking confidence and waning motivation. I’m 70, I kept repeating to myself, why do I have to look for a job? But I wanted a job. I wanted to wake up each morning knowing that there was something I had to do. One Friday afternoon I saw a one-line ad in the Jerusalem Post. It simply said ‘Writers wanted’ followed by an email address. I wrote back, I was sent a simple writing test to confirm that I could write and then work started coming from this anonymous email address. I wondered if it was legal and I relaxed considerably when they sent me a small check and demanded a tax invoice.

I did all the tax necessities, opened the tax file and VAT file, ordered invoice books from a printer and immediately felt like a new person – I had established a tax burden! Progress at last. Soon things started happening. I received a call from my previous employer asking me to do some odd work for him, but only if I could give him an invoice. Then an even more previous employer called up and offered me work, again with the invoice condition. One day an oleh hadash called and asked if I would inspect a house he was considering buying and write a report in English. The trickle of writing work that had started from the small ad settled down into a steady flow. I was busy. I also found that the busier I was the more I did; not only work related tasks, but many personal and family matters that I had neglected in my time of despondency were now being attended to.

I have added other clients to my small writing business and now there is something to do on most days. There are few deadlines, the work is not overly demanding and I am not computer-bound 8 hours a day. There is still time for grandchildren and other delights. And most importantly, I devote a great deal of time to being a senior and being retired.

As for the taxman, my wise grandfather used to say that paying tax is a good sign, and I agree; but Grandpa, forty percent?

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