I didn’t get a stamp, but I did have 2 (TWO!) tax officials visit me yesterday

It’s really hard, this early in my freelancing career, to tell how well I’m doing. I mean, I’ve only been at it a little over nine months, so there’s not a lot of data for me to rely on. But yesterday I had a sure sign that things are going alright.

I got audited.

Yep. A visit from the tax office to inspect my book-keeping. It’s at least a bit odd, since I started working so recently and have not yet paid (nor been required to pay) any tax. Plus, I don’t make a whole lot of money. And yet… it definitely happened.

The taxman just popping by
A little over two weeks ago I was at home working on some stuff, (as I do, you see, I’m self-employed and work from home), when the doorbell buzzed. I thought it was a mistake, but it wasn’t; it was two agents of the belastingdienst (tax office) who wanted to make an appointment with me to look over my books.

That unnerved me, until I remembered I wasn’t doing anything wrong – because I’m pretty sure setting up a business, finding clients, working, getting paid for that work, and following all the relevant procedures is actually what I’m supposed to be doing.

And it is what I’m doing.

Regardless, immediately after they left I called my accountant. We had a meeting and he assured me everything was fine, so long as I printed out all my invoices and showed them everything was all nicely organised. So I put everything into a presentable state and got ready for yesterday’s visit.

The actual appointment
We spent over an hour chatting and they asked questions and looking at my binder. They seemed interested in what I was doing while they were here, and willing to answer my questions. Plus they seemed content when they left. So I guess it wasn’t a big deal?

But it’s pretty surprising that they would come and seek me out for a full inspection after just nine months of living here. I mean, if anything it seems a little overly efficient.

I heard a lot of different advice and input from people in the lead up to the audit, but it wasn’t so bad. I guess that’s the advantage of being audited before you’ve actually filed any taxes.

Explain the VAT categories to me please
In addition, I have a bit of an issue with my Value Added Tax (VAT). Some of the work I do I need to charge 6% VAT, some other 21% and some other 0%. And the rules are different when I work for an European organisation. But even within the Netherlands it’s not always clear. So I asked them to clarify how much VAT I should charge for writing work.

By their own admission they weren’t able to answer that question satisfactorily. And if the tax people don’t understand the tax procedures, then it makes a whole lot of sense that I don’t either. Hopefully they’ll get back to me with a better explanation soon.

In the meantime: thanks Dutch tax folks, for coming over and really making me feel welcome and interesting.