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Sally's Journal
June 6th, 2012
10:19 am


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On asking me to call a ceilidh...
This is starting to happen a bit more, so I thought it might be useful to jot down a FAQ. On the other hand, I tend to be a bit conflicted, so this FAQ might not make a lot of sense.

What does Sally like about calling ceilidhs?

- I like lots of people having fun dancing, and the smug feeling I made that happen

- I like being the centre of attention, and compliments afterwards ;-)

- I really really like ceilidhs, so I like being someone who makes more ceilidhs happen, in a 'pass it on' kind of way.

- Calling is good fun, I like doing it. I like thinking about the ability of the dancers, and the mood, and how tired they are, and the band, and trying to pick cute and unusual dances.

What doesn't Sally like about calling ceilidhs?

- I don't like too much pressure. I've gently steered away from wedding ceilidhs because of the fear around 'this is the Most Important Event of My Life and you called it badly'

- I don't like not being able to dance. I like dancing much more than I like calling, if I end up calling all the time I do less dancing.

- I don't like not being able to spend time with my friends. If it's a party or event that i would otherwise be invited to, spending the whole evening calling is different to dancing most dances and hanging around and chatting a bit.

- I don't like stressing about money. By which I mean, I've entirely lived on pay as you earn tax and not worrying. I'm very pro-tax, so I don't think I'd be comfortable just taking money for calling in cash and not paying tax on it. But I'm very anti-faff, so I really don't want to have to start doing Accounts, and Tax Returns, just because I called three ceilidhs in a year and earnt about 100 quid. I don't know what the law is about things like 'give money to charity and I'll do this' or 'just pay my travel expenses and give me a bottle of wine', but it feels slightly against my pro-tax stance? On the other hand, I believe in things like unions, and a fair wage for fair work, and don't want to be accidently undercutting all the hard working callers who need to be paid to survive.

- I don't like causing faff, if a band usually comes with a caller. If you're booking a band that have a regular caller they usually work with, I would much rather you used them than broke up a regular thing to use me.

- I'm not sure how good I am yet. I have done a lot of calling for clever Cambridge types who do a lot of folk dance. I haven't done a lot of calling for people who don't do a lot of dancing. This is a skill I want to build up, but it's something that makes me a bit nervous. Hence the mostly-avoiding wedding ceilidhs thing.

- I don't have any PA yet. You may find out it is nearly as expensive and faffy just to hire a microphone and speakers as it is to hire a caller with their own PA. I really should try and get some (hmm, it's my 30th soon, maybe that would be a sensible thing to ask for... I want a microphone you can walk about with - maybe even a crazy head mic so you can dance! - and just a speaker to make it loud... but I don't know much about PA)

So, will Sally call your ceilidh?

- If she isn't busy already, and is expecting to be vaguely in the right place at the right time, the answer is almost certainly yes. But...

- she doesn't have any PA, and would like at least a microphone.

- she likes dancing and being sociable, and would be happier to call only half a ceilidh

- she is only an amateur, and while she calls quite good ceilidhs this isn't her day job. If everyone ends up out of time with the music and each other, err, she's still learning.


(32 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 09:36 am (UTC)
*hugs* Ooh, FAQ :)

FWIW, from what I remember, I think you were very good at being clear (including understanding what people who've been dancing for <50 years may need defined occasionally) for comparative beginners, funny and non-pushy, but I obviously can't speak for how good you are at choosing dances, not making mistakes, etc :)

I don't think I'd be comfortable just taking money for calling in cash and not paying tax on it.

I really should know the answer to this question. In fact, I hate paperwork and am really awful at being organised, so I've no idea. But I thought there was in fact some lower bound on what you pay tax on specifically so that if you get £100 for a one-off thing you don't have to fill in a whole pile of forms? But surely someone here knows, lots of people do freelance stuff (music, programming, etc) -- it seems worth finding out so you don't have to worry about it, because it's bound to come up in our lives occasionally.

(FWIW my assumption is that you can be reimbursed for expenses and that doesn't count as being paid, but gifts DO count at their market value, but as I say, there may be exceptions where you don't have to count them. But obviously, you shouldn't listen to random guesses, you should wait for someone who actually knows :))
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 09:48 am (UTC)
Yes, one of the things I hoped might happen if I made this post would be that someone who knows all about the money already might come and explain it to me. I know that travel expenses are tax exempt, because I had to find that out for work once.

[But clearly 'please give me a bottle of booze because I can't be bothered to work out how to pay tax' is a very mild version of 'please pay me in cash so I don't have to pay tax', and given I'm rich enough to be able to afford the principles I should try my best to have them...]

Thank you for the kind words about my calling!
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 09:47 am (UTC)
i am not anti-tax; but a couple of hundred quid a year is unlikely to push you into a different tax band. You could offset your calling income by commensurate donations to a charity of your choice. Medical stats are important to several decimal places where the data are robust enough to support that level of analysis. Tax, not so much. We're in a system where, as Dr D has observed, the Chancellor has just finagled an unpaid-for tax cut for the wealthiest, Vodaphone gets away with non-payment of many millions in tax, as have numerous other large corporations, and taxes have effectively increased for the poorer members of society. Even if you quadrupled your calling income it would cost more for everyone to process your income tax than the actual revenue it generated.

Everything else on your excellent list looks totally reasonable for everyone to know and take on board. I admire your honesty.

[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 09:51 am (UTC)
It's a personal squick thing. I'm not saying everyone else should hold themselves to my standards, but I really don't want to earn money and not pay tax on it that I ought to pay.

[Also, I think there is a Ginger Biscuit risk as well, if you work for the public sector, and get seen doing something technically naughty it can have big career impacts. It's not my personal call that the government shouldn't care about my calling because it's not cost effective, it's the governments.]
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
So far as I'm aware, having someone donate money to charity in exchange for your doing a thing is completely legal. It's also equivalent to their paying you, your paying income tax and then your donating money to charity with Gift Aid. Provided you donate more to charity each year than you earn from ceilidhs. (-8

Crazy head mics are cool gadgets. If you get one it might have pose value when giving presentations, too!
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 10:41 am (UTC)
Yes, but remember, I'm the crazy anti-gift-aid person...
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 10:32 am (UTC)
Having had a quick look around the interwebs, it looks like the 'accept small amounts of money for stuff on top of your day job' situation is quite awkward for tax - you have to register as a sole trader with HMRC and get a self-assessment tax form (and also fill out another form to state that your self-employment income is small enough that you don't have to pay self-employment NI contributions on top of your standard employment ones).
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
You do have to do all that (well, I don't know about registering as a sole trader - I didn't, I just registered as self-employed, is that what you meant?) but it's not all that horrific to do. Mostly. About two days of paperwork pain, I think. I did get caught out by the NI thing, but I have recently smugly sent them my profit and loss pages from 2010-2012, which show a consistent loss, so ha.

FWIW, the limit on not paying extra NI is about £5000 from your self-employment.
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
I'd forgotten about PA, thankyou. Also, I was assuming that you like dancing and therefore if I'm having an informal bring and play ceilidh that I ought to be sure I have at least two people who want to call, so that both/all can dance as well.
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
I have done 60 minute mini-ceilidhs for about 20 friends very happilly without PA (although sometimes I have slightly less voice the next day than would be ideal). But anything much bigger and it is a really really useful thing. Also, if you have a very unbalenced band (particularly if you have pretty but quiet instruments like flutes or recorders) you might want PA for the band, but again, it depends on how big / formal the event is.
From:Pete Stevens [ex-parrot.com]
Date:June 6th, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
We'll the 'serve 'em right' response would be to appropriately set up all the bits of paper you need to in order to legally pay the tax via a proper accountant and then subsequently discover that for legal reasons you're actually a boat docked in luxembourg that's now exempt from tax like real rich people are.

It may well be illegal for the ceilidh to pay you at all if they aren't registered for PAYE unless you send them an appropriate invoice to make the whole thing traceable.

An interesting question is, 'I gave my neighbour a bottle of wine I brought back from my holiday in France to thank her for looking after my cat over the weekend. Assuming we do no further documentation, how many and which laws did we break?'.
[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2012 06:02 am (UTC)
I don't think it would serve 'em right, whoever 'em are.
[User Picture]
Date:June 6th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
The tax question is interesting.
My gut response is, it's an insignificant amount of money per year.

But then I am with you on the pro tax thing. And I do stuff like buy my petrol and packet of sweets on separate cards so the fuel goes on my trade account and the food on personal, routinely, even though it's a pain. Having said that once a year or so I can't be bothered, but that's about £2.50, and at least not a routine error for accountants to be annoyed at. Everything else goes through my accounts, but given I have the tax return nightmare anyway it isn't any more effort for it to.

If I were you I'd either take cash and give a portion to charity, assuming it's less than, say, £200 or so per year or less than £50/transaction. -ie not worth the effort of the accounts.

However given your worries about doing that I'd just ask the person to give to charity on your behalf and cover transport as a reasonably and easy solution.

I wouldn't feel bad about a gift/bottle etc if it's from a friend - see Pete's cat comment on that!!
[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
I feel morally obliged to add I do end up getting unaccounted for plants from work. Mostly because it's easier to buy one extra and definitely have enough for my client and not have to do another trip to the nursery for them (which would cost more in time and fuel than the plant that may or may not be spare); technically any spare plants go in a holding bed, where they can be dug up again and put in someone's garden, but they don't always get moved on, though in principle they could be in future, and they will (often) propagate rather than get 'used up'...
[User Picture]
Date:June 7th, 2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
If you ever need a co-caller somewhere vaguely-reachable from Oxford, let me know!

I am probably substantially less good than you, with probabably a much more slap-dash attitude to getting it right, and a smaller repertoire. But I'm okay.

Entirely with you on the mic. Have you ever tried to call a ceilidh for about drunk 60 light entertainers without a mic, and with musical accompaniment consisting of a improvised band of kitchen appliances? [The amp broke]. Bellowing abuse shuts people up, so you can get on with the calling. But that technique is probably less appropriate in other contexts.
[User Picture]
Date:June 9th, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
Ah, so nuggish and good. :-)

Hugs lovely Sally
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