As my third tax season in London kicks off, I’ve just had a run of established clients emailing me saying “I’ve done my 2014-15 figures; can you just have a look over them?”
I’ve been working with these clients for 2 or 3 years doing Tax Coaching – working with them around their records, bookkeeping and tax. And, hey – they’re really getting it together! It usually takes 2-3 cycles of doing something to really learn it, and so it makes sense that my more established clients are building competencies and starting to stand on their own feet.
But also – oh damn!
I’m only going to get £60 out of them this season instead of a few hundred. The model I’ve had for my business has been to build up a stable of really great clients, everyone gets their needs met and we can all have a really great time as I devote myself to our gradually evolving working relationships.
I was getting close to that goal, but now my business is disappearing!
I hadn’t counted on the larger implications of my central guiding principle in working with clients: empowerment.
Empowering clients around tax, or Tax Coaching, is all about making sure they have appropriate Skills, Knowledge and Attitude to do their own tax. We work together in a circular fashion, cycling through all three areas over several tax cycles, with a mix of encounters with their feelings, practical exercises with records and numbers, and straight information on tax law. Gradually the client comes into a new relation with their tax return, as they build a new story about themselves as capable and confident to do what’s necessary, and have this story affirmed by their new experience.
I just love this process. I love being involved in the actuality of it. I love the resulting change for the client. And I really deeply love contributing these things to my community. One of my dreams is to live in community in which money doesn’t represent power, or status, or worth, or legitimacy. Where money isn’t used as a stand-in for personal boundaries or a way to insulate us from our vulnerabilities. A community in which money is simply a tool, no more and no less important than other tools, and the majority of people feel easy and competent about doing whatever they do day-to-day with money. A community in which, when a new project is conceived, people don’t go “what a great idea but, oh we can’t do it – we don’t have the money.” But rather people go, “oh yes that’s worth putting effort into. Now let’s get the resources together we need for it and create it.”
Moving towards this dream involves developing attitude, skills and knowledge, as I said. But by far the biggest of these is attitude: the stories we hold and the feelings we have about money. Even when clients have the skills and the knowledge, what hangs around the longest is their story that tax is hard, money is hard, I’m no good with numbers, etc etc. I’ve heard several times in the last week from newly empowered clients “I was surprised how easy it was to do my tax.”
Every client who experiences this transformation of their experience with tax then carries that embodied knowledge with them as they move through their life and interact with others in the community. They no longer carry the tension of fear, shame, anxiety – or whatever it was – within themselves. And when they encounter those tensions in others they can say “ah, you feel that; yes – and you don’t need to you. It’s possible to become empowered. There is another way to be around tax and money.”
And maybe, too, having learned how to handle tax as just an ordinary thing like tying your shoelaces or doing the washing up, maybe their relationship with money might change in other ways too. They might feel more confident to track the money in their business more closely, and come into a more confident and affirmative relationship with how their business generates that money. Through this they may feel more able to share their unique gifts with the community, and thereby enrich both themselves and the community.
In short, empowerment around tax can have ripple effects beyond the individuals who are becoming empowered. And this possibility excites me – hugely! The more people I can empower around money and tax, the more social capital my community has. And the more ease, and pleasure.
So maybe my business isn’t disappearing after all. Maybe it’s morphing from an accounting service for individuals and small businesses into a community development project around money…