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The "Nobody Cares" Manifesto For Accountants

With thanks to Dennis Howlett:
* It's important to remember debits are on the left and credits on the right - nobody cares. Probably because the system was invented in 1494 and hasn't changed since. * We work hard to earn letters behind our names - nobody cares. Importance isn't derived from academic achievement but what you do for others. * ROI is an important concept - nobody cares. ROI calculations are something you do when you really don't want to help your client but to demonstrate to him/her how important you are. For which read 2. * It's important to keep good records - nobody cares. Clients aren't in business to be administrators. If you can't figure out how to help clients then expect to be outsourced. Probably the day after tomorrow. * A tidy office implies a tidy mind - nobody cares. A tidy mind is often compartmentalised to the point of tunnel vision. You don't see tidy at the edge of innovation. Which is where you should be when your client…

The Vocational Guidance Counsellor Sketch

This is the classic Monty Python sketch about a Mr Anchovy who wanted career guidance.

Mr Anchovy was a chartered accountant who wanted to be a lion tamer but was recommended instead to stick with accountancy.

Why? Well – and I quote - because he was an appallingly dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab and awful.

And, concluded the report, whereas in most professions these would be considerable drawbacks, in chartered accountancy they are a positive boon.


This sketch was first broadcast on 21 Decemeber 1969 as part of episode 10 of the first series of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Michael Palin played Mr Anchovy and John Cleese was the Vocational Guidance Counsellor.

Parrots in the office

An accountant goes into a pet shop to buy a parrot.
The shop owner shows him three identical parrots on a perch and says, "The parrot on the left costs £500."

"Why does that parrot cost so much?" asks the accountant.
"Well," replies the owner, "it knows how to do complex audits."

"How much does the middle parrot cost?" asks the accountant.
"That one costs £1,000 because it can do everything the first one can do plus it knows how to prepare financial forecasts".

The startled accountant asks about the third parrot, to be told it costs £4,000. Needless to say, this begs the question, "What can it do?"
To which the owner replies "To be honest, I've never seen him do a darn thing, but the other two say he's their Senior Partner."

Who does what and why?

A newly qualified accountant in one of the larger firms was having a celebratory drink with some of the partners in his firm.

They were encouraging him to take an interest in professional affairs - as they all did.

''What do you do,'' he asked. One said he was on the local branch committee, another chaired a tax discussion group, a third was a practice support member.

The oldest partner was unusually coy and then announced that his involvement in professional affairs was limited to making regular appearances in disciplinary hearings after clients complained about his work. One of his fellow partners was quite new to the firm and was astonished to hear this. Later the new parter asked if what he'd heard was really true, that the older partner made regular appearances in disciplinary hearings after clients complained about his work. ''Oh no'', came the reply, ''The senior partner's a member of the Urgent Issues Task Force; he's just…

Auditors and dogs

The role of the company auditor is commonly misunderstood.
To help clarify the the limited responsibilities of auditors reference is often made to the immortal words of Lord Justice Stopes in the Kingston Cotton Mill case: "The auditor is a watchdog not a bloodhound".

Many yeras ago this phrase was famously corrupted by an aspiring young accountancy student. During an examination where he felt under significant time pressure he wrote in evident frustration: "The auditor is a bulldog, not a bloody greyhound".

I’m Allan – I’m an accountant

Over ten years ago I met Allan Kutner.Allan was a city-based Chartered Accountant who told a wonderful story about his early years.I encouraged him to send it in to Accountancy Age who duly printed extracts in their ‘Taking Stock’ back cover feature.I recently traced a copy that I must have retained over the years and am delighted to be able to record it on this blog for posterity:Allan’s hope was that his cautionary tale would help others to overcome the stigma and guilt that society instils in accountants.After exhibiting an early obsession with maths Allan says that he started going up the city and hanging round Threadneedle Street.“I’d go upto business men and ask if they wanted an audit” he writes.“At first they would just look at me disgustedly and rush off.But gradually some would stop and ask ‘how much?’.I would tell them – for a full audit and typed report, £250.But if they just wanted an interim and handwritten report, I’d do it for £50.”One thing led to another and soon All…

Tony Hancock - The Income tax demand

Here's a link to a sound file of the half hour radio episode first aired fifty years ago on 4 November 1956.

Tony Hancock receives a tax demand for £14 12s 3d re ten years' back tax. He refuses to pay as that represents 50% of his income over the period! (Even fifty years ago this would have been a tiny amount!) so he goes to see the Inspector - played by Kenneth Williams.

The inspector tells Hancock that most people ignore his letters. Once they've been ignored twice he ignores the taxpayers! He also recommends that Hancock should go to see a Chartered Accountant "you'll probably get away with it then!". Hancock takes his advice but the accountant turns out to be a crooked Sid James and mayhem ensues.

I am indebted to Chris Chadburn for telling me about this.

Reflections on the way people prepare their tax returns

Have you ever wondered why
-people are quick to brag about their income, but refuse to list it all on their SA tax return?
-people refuse to drop a pound in the Salvation Army box, but are quick to list significant -miscellaneous cash donations when completing their Income tax returns.
-people refuse to share their age until they get an extra income tax deduction.
-someone refuses to discuss their weight - until they think that the cost of dieting can be considered a medical deduction.
- child support is such a contentious issue when everyone wants to claim everyone they ever knew as a dependant.

Don't tell the joke police

The Colin cartoon strip by Higgins in Accountancy Age today has a good/bad joke (depending upon your point of view). In essence:

So, if you were going to pull a carousel fraud, you'd start a company importing tribal art and keep-fit equipment. Why?

Well tribal art is a growth market and keep-fit ket sells all year round.

And what would you call such a business?

How about "Customs and Exercise"?!


You can access Colin cartoons on the Accountancy Age blog.

All too common?

A businessman has been learning to be a balloonist and takes his first solo flight. Unfortunately the wind gets up, he is blown off course and is forced to land. He is in a paddock close to a road but has no idea where he is. He sees a car coming along the road and hails it.

The driver gets out and the balloonist says, "Excuse me but can you tell me where I am?"

"Yes, of course", says the motorist. "You have just landed in your balloon and with this wind you have obviously been blown off course. You are in the top paddock on Steve Pringle's farm, 8 miles from Stonehenge. Steve ploughed the field last week and sowed barley seeds. Also, there's a bull in the paddock. It is behind you and about to attack you."

At that moment the bull reaches the balloonist and tosses him over the fence. Luckily he is unhurt. He gets up, dusts…

Out of the mouths of babes...

This true story may only make sense if you know me, but it's worth recording anyway.

Many years ago when my nephew Zach was about 8 years old he told his mother that when he grew up he wanted to be like uncle Mark.

"An accountant?" his mother asked , a little incredulous that little Zach could be interested in the subject at such a young age. What could I have done to inspire this attraction to the profession she wondered.

Zach's reply was priceless. "Oh," he said, "Is that what you call someone who does magic tricks?"


We don't pay staff the National Minimum Wage (NMW)

HMRC recently published a top 10 of some of the more unusual or outlandish reasons given to its enforcement teams.

The top ten worst excuses for not paying the minimum wage are:

10. I only took him on as a favour
9. The workers can't speak English
8. He's over 65, so the national minimum wage doesn't apply
7. She's on benefits - if you add those to her pay, it totals the NMW
6. They can't cope on their own and it's more than they would get in their own country
5. He's disabled
4. I didn't think it applied to small employers
3. I didn't think the workers were worth NMW
2. But she only wanted £3 an hour
1. He doesn't deserve it - he's a total waste of space

3 envelopes

A new senior partner was about to be appointed at a large accountancy firm. His predecessor met with him privately and presented him with three large numbered envelopes. “Keep these in your desk drawer and open them in order as and when you run up against a problem you don’t think you can solve,” he said.

Things went along pretty smoothly, but after six months, a number of key partners resigned and the new senior partner started to take some flak. At his wits end, he remembered the envelopes. He went to the drawer and took out the first envelope. The message read, “Blame your predecessor.” The new senior partner called a Partners meeting and tactfully laid the blame at the feet of the previous senior partner.
About a year later, the firm was again experiencing some problems. Having learned from his previous experience, the senior partner quickly opened the second envelope. The message read, “Blame your management committee.” This he did and a couple of members of the committee duly sto…

Monty Python's accountancy shanty

Here are the two key verses followed by the whole song with the verses in the middle.
I've also included a link so that you can hear the song in all it's original glory. Click here.

It's fun to charter an accountant
And sail the wide accountancy,
To find, explore the funds offshore
And skirt the shoals of bankruptcy!

It can be manly in insurance.
We'll up your premium semi-annually.
It's all tax deductible.
We're fairly incorruptible,
We're sailing on the wide accountancy!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
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LEAD PIRATE:
Full speed ahead, Mr. Cohen!

CHORUS:
Up, up, up your premium. Up, up, up your premium.
PIRATE:
Scribble away!
CHORUS:
Up, up, up your premium.
PIRATE:
And balance the books.
CHORUS:
Up, up, up your premium.
PIRATE:
Scribble away!
CHORUS:
Up, up, up your premium.
PIRATE:
But manage the books.
CHORUS:
Up, up, up.

PIRATES:
It's fun to charter an accountant
And sail th…

Accountants in films

These films featured accountants - not all of them were boring either!
The Producers - Zero Mostel ropes accountant Gene Wilder into collaborating with him on a scheme to rip off old ladies. In the remake Nathan Lane persuades Matthew Broderick to abandon his accountancy career in favour of becoming a theatrical producer.
Ghostbusters - Rick Moranis is an accountant who, although possessed by evil spirits, asks who does monstrous Sigourney Weaver's tax return.The Royal Tenenbaums - Danny Glover plays accountant Henry Sherman, Angelica Huston's dependable second husband.The Closet - French superstar Daniel Autueil plays an accountant who pretends to be gay to keep his job in a condom factory.Dave - Charles Grodin plays the president's accountant and solves the budget deficit in one overnight session, leaving the White House at dawn in his prudent small car.Midnight Run - Charles Grodin again. Here he plays an ac…

An acccountant and his frog

An accountant was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess". He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week". The accountant took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.

The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want." Again the accountant took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket. Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess, that I'll stay with you and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?" The accountant said, "Look I'm an accountant. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."