Thursday, November 30, 2006

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 too embarrassed to admit it!"

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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".

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

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 Allan was asked to do a full corporation tax computation, including group relief. “I’d heard of people doing that sort of thing ended up in institutions! I needed help – and fast.”

“I’d heard of an institution that helped people like me. I went a long to a meeting of the English ICA. They got me off the backstreet accounting and helped me to lead a decent life. It’s thanks to them I reformed.”

Sunday, November 05, 2006

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.