Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2007

What it means to be a customer of HMRC

Dear Inspector of Taxes
I see from your website that you now regard me as a customer. This makes you my supplier and I am therefore writing to tell you that I have decided to look for an alternative supplier. This is your last chance to improve your service.

Let me tell you why my wife and I are fed up to the back teeth with the way you have looked after us of later:
- To help even out our cashflow, when we have surplus funds, we lodge them with you as a pre-payment of part of our forthcoming tax bill. However you hardly ever send us statements that show us where we stand with you and when you do send them, they are quite impossible to check or to understand what they mean;
- You never seem to answer the telephone;
- You and your colleagues take an age to deal with the enquiries my accountant has raised with you; and
You seem happy to threaten distraint proceedings at the drop of a hat - never a good idea from a customer service point of view.

If you really were a business you'd have gon…

Public Accounts Committee interviews Trevor Wooley - MOD

During the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on the privatisation of QinetiQ, 3 December 2007, the Committee invited the Ministry Of Defence’s Trevor Woolly in for questioning.

What follows is an extract of a verbatim exchange at the start of his interview:

MR RICHARD BACON MP (CON, S. NORFOLK): Mr Woolley, are you a chartered accountant?
MR WOOLLEY: I am not.
BURTON: Are you a qualified financial person of any kind? Do you have any financial qualifications?
WOOLLEY: I do not have financial qualifications
BURTON: What is your job?
WOOLLEY: I am the finance director of the Ministry of Defence.


Christmas puzzle

Imagine you are walking down the street late on Christmas eve when you think you see, ahead of you, three characters: A sweet natured, happy and helpful tax inspector, an aggressive, unpleasant and uncommercial tax inspector and a large jolly Father Christmas. As you watch them, you see them stop outside a bank where someone seems to have left a pile of cash just lying around.

Which of the 3 characters do you see picking up the cash and why?

At the risk of confirming unfair stereotypes. The answer is:The nasty horrible tax inspector - as the other two don't really exist!

Christmas carols (2)

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
Hated paying NIC
Went to a sharp adviser
Paid the man a hefty fee

He told the other reindeer
You should do the same as me
Go and see my adviser
Get yourself an MSC

Then one foggy Christmas eve, the taxman came to say:
"Your idea was not so bright
You owe tax, you're banged to rights"

So all the deer were bankrupt
Didn't have a bean they said
Now taxman's after Santa
He'll be really in the red.

Written by Chris Williams of Baker Tilly and
first published in Taxation magazine 20 December 2007

Christmas carols (1)

We nick ye merry gentlemen and confiscate your sleigh
For using it to bootleg booze and ciggies from Calais
To you we're wise, you've dodged excise,
We've tailed you all the way.
You're go-o- ing to pris-i-on old boy!
Oh what a joy!
You're go-o-ing to Wormwood Scrubs old boy!

Written by Chris Williams of Baker Tilly and first published in Taxation magazine 20 December 2007

T-shirts for accountants

It's hard to believe but I've found a website containing HUNDREDS of t-shirts with accountant slogans on them. Here's just a few of them:
During the day I dress up as an accountantMy Daddy is the best accountant in the whole worldThe Zen of accounting - for every debit there is a creditTrust me - I'm an accountantAccountants appreciate a good figureI love my accountantI live for accountingI'm the accountant your mother warned you aboutFuture accountant [for a baby's t-shirt!]Accountants rockI'm billing you for reading thisProud parent of an accountantAccounting diva [in pink]It's accrual worldDaddy's little tax deduction [for a baby's t-shirt!]Have you hugged an accountant todayMild mannered accountant by day. Sexy husband by nightAccountant on the outside. Biker on the insideBeancounter university [in the style of a top Uni]The world's best accountantA good accountant is a debit to her professionI love Chartered Accountants
And so on!!

A taxman and an accountant were having a discussion

They were arguing over who had the more noble profession and agreed it was whichever had been around the longest.

The accountant, convinced he'd won, quoted the bible. Even before God created Adam he created an orderly universe from chaos. An orderly universe implied the involvement of accountants to monitor and keep track of developments. By definition some of the angels must have been accountants. There were no taxes so no tax inspectors around that early in human history.

The tax inspector wasn't beaten. He listened patiently and then simply said: "Who do you think created the chaos?"

Pre Nuptial agreement for trainee accountants

A summary of the first few questions asked:
1- Who gets custody of the calculator?
2- Who gets first use of the calculator?
3- What Accounting practice are we going to work for?
4- What are we going to be, Accountants or Auditors?
5- or for the more adventurous… Who's going to be the Accountant and who's going to be the Auditor? (This type of marriage is a 'separate bedroom job')

A little dated but new to me anyway

Definition of an Accountant....A walking, talking calculator

Definition of a very expensive calculator… anything that moves at any of the big four firms of accountants

Enron, WorldCom and Parma lat… The Accounting Profession's version of the old adage 'waiting ages for a bus and 3 turn up at once'

Little Girl (pre nursery) to her Mummy after hearing about the Enron, WorldCom and Parmalat shenanigans…Mummy, Mummy, I wanna be an accountant... hush, hush little one, go over there and play with your calculator

Same little girl to her mummy…. Mummy if I play with my calculator will I become an accountant …with plenty of practice you might do

What's the 1st entry on every accountant's birthday/Christmas prezzie wish list…? A new calculator

The same little girl to her mummy… Mummy, mummy…I've had plenty of practice on my calculator… can I work for PWC… Little one, you'll have to wait a few years, I'm not sure if they are hiring straight from pre nursery… I'…

There's no such thing as free advice

A doctor and an accountant were seated together at a formal awards dinner. All of a sudden the doctor was approached by a man asking about the best course of action to alleviate his back pain. The doctor gave some medical advice, then turned to the accountant and said "I really hate it when people seek free advice from me at parties."

The accountant replied "I know exactly what you mean. It happens all the time to me too."

"How do you handle it?" asked the doctor. "It seems rude not to answer when you ar asked for your advice at a social gathering."

"Simple" said the accountant. "I give a little advice and the next day I send them a £50 bill for consultancy services".

"What a great idea" said the doctor. "I think that would work for me. I must remember to try it." But by the time he got home he'd already forgotten about sending a bill to the man with the back pain. He remembered the next morning thou…

Revenge of the Taxpayer

I have just noticed this book on my shelves. I bought it long before I started this blog and have yet to plunder it for suitable material.

It is a privately published collection of anecdotes and humorous stories about income tax, accountants and suchlike from celebrities and public figures in aid of the Meningitis Trust a registered charity (number 803016).

An ideal gift for anyone you know who hates paying tax. This £6 book contains contributions from about 80 celebrities. Also included are some of the better known quotes and other tales from accountants, taxpayers and Inland Revenue officials.

Here's a link to the Revenge of the Taxpayer website which contains details of how to aquire your own copy.

National Hug your Accountant day

In a letter to organisations such as the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Confederation of British Industry and Institute of Directors, accountancy software firm Kashflow has called for 25 October to be named "National Hug Your Accountant Day".The firm said although the call is light-hearted it does have a serious message. The day is aimed at bringing accountants and SMEs closer together so that both parties can get a better understanding of the pressures they face.

KashFlow’s own research has shown that accountants think small business owners need to do more to understand the value of accurate and timely record keeping to avoid fines and likewise small business owners believe that they should be left to concentrate on running their business and worry about the accounts at a later date.

The accounting software company KashFlow is in a unique position in that it is well used by small to medium sized enterprises to record and keep track of their day to …

Are you a prostitute or are you an auditor?

1. You work very odd hours.

2. You are paid a lot of money to keep your client happy.

3. You are paid well but your pimp gets most of the money.

4. You spend a majority of your time in a hotel room.

5. You charge by the hour but your time can be extended.

6. You are not proud of what you do.

7. Creating fantasies for your clients is rewarded.

8. It's difficult to have a family.

9. You have no job satisfaction.

10. If a client beats you up, the pimp just sends you to another client.

11. You are embarrassed to tell people what you do for a living.

12. People ask you, "What do you do?" and you can't explain it.

13. Your client pays for your hotel room plus your hourly rate.

14. Your client always wants to know how much you charge and what they get for the money.

15. Your pimp drives nice cars like Mercedes or Jaguars.

16. Your pimp encourages drinking and you become addicted to drugs to ease the pain of it all.

17. You know the pimp is charging more than you are worth but if the client…

A different world

Accountants wearing pink?
Accountants in lime green?
Accountants at the cutting edge of every fashion scene?
Accountants telling jokes?
Accountants getting laughs?
Accountants being popular and signing autographs?
Accountant boy and girl bands in at number one?
Accountants on Big Brother, providing all the fun?
Accountants chased by groupies who will get down on their knees…
Accountants in a different world – a world without John Cleese!- Sean Kelly

Chartered Accountants and the rhythm method

"You may not admire Chartered Accountants but you must admit we have a wonderful sense of natural rhythm"

- Mr Arthur Stoat ACA, as portrayed by Tim Brooke-Taylor demonstrating the Chartered Accountant Dance on "At last the 1948 show"

An accountant's lot is not a happy one

"I'm a nothing. I spend my life counting other people's money. People I'm smarter than. Better than! I want... I want... I want everything I've ever seen in the movies!"

- Gene Wilder as Accountant Leo Bloom, in the original 1968 film of The Producers.

The accountant and the martian

A Martian lands to plunder, pillage, and burn. The Martian goes up to the owner of the first house he sees and says "I'm a Martian just arrived from the other side of the solar system. We're here to destroy your civilization, plunder, pillage, and burn. What do you think of that?"

The owner replies "I cannot express an opinion based on a hearsay evidence, I am a Chartered Accountant"

The job interview

A bright and experienced accountant is being interviewed for the role of Finance Director. During the interview with members of the Board the Managing Director suddenly asks: "Tell me, what is seven multiplied by three?" The accountant thinks fast and replies "22."Once the interview is over the accountant goes out, takes out his calculator and finds the answer - 21. Disappointed, he goes home. Next morning he gets a call from the MD who tells him that he's got the job. The accountant is pleasantly surprised but can't resist asking:"Thanks for that but what about my mistake with that sum you threw at me - seven multiplied by three?"The MD tells him - "of all the candidates we interviewed, you came the closest."

Notable quotes - from history

"Britain will have the simplest VAT in Europe"
- then Chancellor of the Exchequer - Anthony Barber, 1972

"I'm a stickler for tidiness in the office"
- Secretary to tax avoider extraordinaire, Roy Tucker, explaining to the Court why she had thrown away his diaries, 1980

"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck"
- Sir David Tweedie, when chief of the Accounting Standards Board, explaining the difference between debt and equity, 1993

‘Those of you who have read the standard on financial instruments (IAS39) and understood it have not read it properly."
- Sir David Tweedie again, as Chairman of the IASB, delivering a speech at the London Business School, 2005

"The safest job in the city is Accountancy"
- Headline in Accountancy Age, 1976

"I don't have any use for bodyguards, but I do have a specific use for two highly trained certified public accountants."
- Elvis Presley

"My money go…

Lessons in accounting from children

There was an expert accountant who was well versed in game theory. He heard that his intelligent niece, who was five years old, always took a 50p piece, when a choice between a 50p piece and a pound coin was offered to her.

He went to see his niece and offered her just such a choice. She took the 50p and said "Thank you Uncle".The accountant tried to explain to his niece "You must understand, a pound coin is twice as valuable as a 50p piece, so you should always choose the pound coin."The niece replied "Uncle, but then people will not offer me any money."

Accountants and light bulbs

How many accountants does it take to change a light bulb?

Hmmm....let me run a few numbers and get back to you....

Colin Collins on Facebook

The popular cartoon character from the back cover of Accountancy Age has his own profile page on Facebook*. Full marks to whoever conceived his work description:

Accounting isn't the dull, boring job it's cracked up to be, ooooooh no... we have computers and calculators and pda's and blackberries and everything. Sometimes I pretend I'm batman and put it all on my belt... not the computer though, that would look silly.
*If readers are interested I have established a group for Ambitious Professionals on Facebook. Please join me there.

The oldest accountancy joke?

Recently, in an archeological excavation in the middle east, a large stone tablet was unearthed. Scholars determined that it was an ancient audit report, complaining about the use of papyrus scrolls by the scribes. It was clear that such scrolls lacked the evidential integrity of stone and clay tablets.

Accountancy quotes

Accounting: A bunch of numbers running around looking for an argument.

If you need accounting to prove it, it was probably not true in the first place.

Obviously accounting pays, otherwise there would be no accountants.

There is nothing more permanent than temporary account.

Accounting will prove anything, even the truth.

Accounting is economics without assumptions.

Laws of accountancy

1. Trial balances don’t
2. Working Capital does not
3. Liquidity tends to run out
4. Return on investments never will
5. Bottom line is only the tip of the iceberg.


Another story courtesy of Paul Aplin, Chairman of the ICAEW Tax Faculty at the start of the Wyman Symposium last week:

He had been explaining that the relationship between HMRC and the professional bodies was something like that of a marriage and that perhaps what was required was some relationship counselling. In this context he recalled being advised that this often involves both parties being told that they must 'listen' as well as 'talk'.

Paul was at pains to point out that despite being married for many years he had no first hand knowledge of relationship counselling. Apparently this nearly changed recently when his wife noticed a new folder on his computer. She hadn't seen it before and thus doubted it had anything to do with her. And yet it was called 'Darling'.

Paul's wife only calmed down when the contents of the folder were revealed to be letters to our new Chancellor!

Yellow pages

At the start of the Wyman Symposium last night, Paul Aplin, Chairman of the ICAEW Tax Faculty explained that he had initially baulked at the idea of being an 'Intermediary' which is HMRCs preferred word to describe accountants and tax agents.

He changed his mind after looking up Tax Adviser in the Yellow Pages and finding it wedged between Tatooists and Taxidermists!

Why is accountancy like mountain climbing?

Once you finish the job and get to the top, you still can't really see anything.

[This 'joke' was created by a couple of Accountancy Age journalists who recently spent the weekend climbing mountains and then musing about the similarities and differences between accountancy and mountain climbing. The big difference they identified? "Some would say that accountancy is a slightly dry subject. Whatever else you could say about the weekend's weather, the word 'dry' never came into it."]

Stranger than fiction

This one's not a joke but it must rank as a fun - A recent film about a tax auditor starring Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. What a bizarre concept!

In the film Will Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a tax auditor who lives an excruciatingly well-planned life. He wakes one day to hear a woman's voice narrating his life and, in one disturbing scene, predicting his death. Crick sets out to find out whether he's mad but ends up on a trail that leads him to writer Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) - who, as chance would have it, is writing a book in narrative style about the life of Harold Crick, a tax auditor who lives an excruciatingly well-planned life. With his life in her hands, so to speak, their relationship takes a peculiar twist when Harold learns Eiffel's novel is not to have a happy ending.

Ok - maybe not fun!

In an earlier post last year I listed a number of other films that featured accountants as main characters. Have a guess as to how many are on the lis…

Arctic limericks

AccountingWEB recently ran a limerick competition with reference to the case of Jones v Garnett - otherwise known as Arctic Systems Limited - which was finally heard by the House of Lords earlier this month. Geoff Jones and his wife Diana's financial arrangements have been attacked by HMRC under the settlements legislation. Most commentators take a different view to HMRC.

My favourite limerick was one of the runners up according to the AccountingWEB judges:

In the House of Lords one June day
Geoff Jones was having his say
“Being taxed on Di’s share
Is distinctly unfair
When the law is decidedly grey!”

Well done to Jo Stimpson - You woz robbed!

The Taxman's typos

As the late great(?) Cyril Fletcher would say on 'That's Life' - I am indebted to Jane Moore, editor of the ICAEW's Taxline magazine which recently contained the following:

Supplied by Alan Carter who received this from an HMRC large processing office about his client's tax code:
"I refer to your letter of 30 April 2007. Please accept my apology for any incontinence caused. Your client's tax code has now been amended...."

Jane also mentioned another gem sent to her by Alan Sacks. He said that HMRC had written to confirm that a client's DOM1 form had been sent to HMRC’s Residency section for consideration of his 'dummy file position'.

I'd welcome further such examples as comments on this blog item.

Work work work

A taxi driver, a taxidermist and a tax adviser were discussing whether it was better to spend time with the wife or a mistress.

The taxi driver said he enjoyed spending time with his wife, and although he sometimes lost his way he was driving towards them having a loving and enduring relationship.

The taxidermist said he enjoyed spending time with his mistress, because of he could tell her what he was going to do and then do to her what he did to his 'clients' albeit in a more pleasurable way.

The tax adviser said, "I'm a bit different as I tell my mistress that I must spend time with my wife and I tell my wife I want to spend time with my mistress." The taxi driver and the taxidermist were astonished. "How does that work then?" one of them asked. The tax adviser replied "It's great. Because I have a wife and a mistress, they each assume I'm spending time with the other woman. That means I can go to the office and get some work done."

How accountants do it...

Accountants do it by the book.
Accountants do it within budget.
Accountants do it to the bottom line.
Accountants do it with double entries.
Accountants do it between spreadsheets.
Accountants are Certified to do it in Public.
Accountants do it without losing their balance.

The dog and duck

Many years ago a publican had an afternoon meeting with a tax inspector in his pub. The publican had been claiming tax relief in respect the upkeep of his 'guard dog' but the taxman was unwilling to concede that this was acceptable.

The publican replied that upstairs in the pub were both the dog and the lunchtime takings. He invited the taxman to go upstairs, on his own, and if the taxman returned with the takings the publican would agree to addback the disputed expenses. The taxman's response was to allow the expense in full.

My thanks to Barry Jefford of George Hay, Chartered Accountants, for the story which was told to him by his client, being the publican in question.

Gordon and the donkey

Many years ago a young Scot called Gordon bought a donkey from an old farmer for £100.00. The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When the farmer drove up the next day, he said, "Sorry son, but I have some bad news...the donkey is on my truck, but he's dead."The young Scotsman replied, "Well then, just give me my money back." The farmer confessed, "I can't do that. I've already spent it." The Scotsman said, "OK then, just unload the donkey anyway". The farmer asked, "What are you going to do with him?" The young man said, "I'm going to raffle him off." To which the farmer exclaimed, "You can't raffle off a dead donkey!" But the Scot, with a big smile on his face, said "Of course I can. Just watch me. I just won't tell anybody that he's dead." A month later the two met up again and the farmer asked, "What happened with that dead donkey?" The young Scot sai…

Tax Rap

Sounds crazy but a top US tax software supplier recently arranged a competition to find the best tax rap! The winner was announced on 15 April 2007.

Here it is:

TurboTax Winning Rap

Accountants top the poll but only for one surgeon in five

Five surgeons are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon says, "I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered."

The second responds, "Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is colour coded."

The third surgeon says, "No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order."

The fourth surgeon chimes in: "You know, I like builders...those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would."

But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: "You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, and no spine, and the head and backside are interchangeable."

The over zealous tax inspector

At the end of the tax year the Tax Office sent an inspector to audit the books of a synagogue. While he was checking the books he turned to the Rabbi and said, "I notice you buy a lot of candles. What do you do with the candle drippings?" "Good question," noted the Rabbi. "We save them up and send them back to the candle makers, and every now and then they send us a free box of candles."

"Oh," replied the inspector, somewhat disappointed that his unusual question had a practical answer. But on he went, in his obnoxious way: "What about all these matzo purchases? What do you do with the crumbs?" "Ah, yes," replied the Rabbi, realising that the inspector was trying to trap him with an unanswerable question. "We collect them and send them back to the manufacturers, and every now and then they send a free box of matzo balls."

"I see," replied the inspector, thinking hard about how he could fluster the know-it-al…

Inland Revenue letter published in the Guardian some years back

Dear Mr Addison,
I am writing to you to express our thanks for your more than prompt reply to our latest communication, and also to answer some of the points you raise. I will address them, as ever, in order. Firstly, I must take issue with your description of our last as a "begging letter". It might perhaps more properly be referred to as a "tax demand". This is how we, at the Inland Revenue have always, for reasons of accuracy; traditionally referred to such documents.

Secondly, your frustration at our adding to the "endless stream of crapulent whining and panhandling vomited daily through the letterbox on to the doormat" has been noted. However, whilst I have naturally not seen the other letters to which you refer I would cautiously suggest that their being from "pauper councils, Lombardy pirate banking houses and pissant gas-mongerers" might indicate that your decision to "file them next to the toilet in case of emergencies" is at be…

You know you've been talking about work too much..

The tax adviser had just read the story of Cinderella to his four-year-old daughter for the first time. The little girl was fascinated by the story, especially the part where the pumpkin turns into a golden coach. Suddenly she piped up, "Daddy, when the pumpkin turned into a golden coach, would that be classed as income or a capital gain?"
Yorkshire Airlines

Although not an accountancy joke I was introduced to this at a professional networking event for suppliers of services to accountants - organised by SWAT. It's also topical as my son is at Leeds University.

(The video lasts 2 minutes)

Vicar Of Dibley marries an accountant

According to the viewer stats, on Xmas day more Brits watched The Vicar of Dibley than any other TV programme.
This most British of sitcoms involved the Vicar getting married (eventually) to her sweetheart who was an accountant - for reasons I nver found out. It didn't seem to be an integral part of the plot.

However his profession did permit an old accountancy joke to be heard by millions of viewer when the Vicar (played by Dawn French) asked a rhetorical question:
'What do accountants do when they're constipated? They get their pencil and work it out.'

A few good expenses

Is this the original script for 'The truth' scene in that great film "A few good men"? Was Jack Nicholson really running the Accounts dept?

It only lasts 90 seconds. There's a similar 3 minute version with a different punchline on Youtube.