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Not another boring accountant

In 1997 I had my first call from the BBC. I was on the phone to someone else when my secretary rushed in to tell me that Newsnight wanted to speak to me.

I decided to take the call. My mind was racing. Could they have become aware of my expertise in advising on the changing basis of taxation and the introduction of self-assessment? Did they need a new media pundit to explain the Chancellor’s tax decisions in the budget. Did they want me to expand on a recent article I’d written in the accountancy press? In a split second I saw myself as a regular TV pundit explaining complex tax issues so that a TV audience could understand them. It never happened!

Apparently that morning there had been a full page feature in one of the broadsheets, as a result of a press release issued by one of the largest firms of accountants. It seems that they were sponsoring a new film in which they had insisted that the lead character would be a chartered accountant, rather than a solicitor. Then, as now, films were more likely to feature sexy solicitors and luscious lawyers rather than the exciting and glamorous life of a chartered accountant.

The producer of Newsnight wanted to do a piece about the prospective film and whether there was any real prospect of chartered accountants being seen as anything other than boring.

I remember asking how the producer had got my name. I found out later that they had phoned the Institute of Chartered Accountants and asked if they had any accountants who weren’t boring. Apparently, the PR people they spoke to immediately thought of someone quite senior. But then concluded that he was boring. The same things happened for the next two senior people they thought of. "Oops, no sorry, he's boring too." So, they gave up but tried to make out that they simply didn't want to be seen to be favouring anyone in particular. They suggested instead that the researcher contact Accountancy Age newspaper. Now, I was well-known to a number of the journalists on Accountancy Age and had been featured on the back cover two or three times with some spurious link between accountancy, tax and magic.

As a result, they passed on my details to the Newsnight producer who thought that I'd be perfect. A successful chartered accountant with a sideline as a bit of a magician. And best of all I wasn't boring!

I'll share the rest of this story on this blog on another occasion.
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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…

Ken Dodd and the Inland Revenue

The comedian Ken Dodd, was prosecuted for tax evasion in 1989 as has been mentioned on this blog before, here and here. I'd love to find a clip of him talking about it in his act. For now though here are a couple of references to comments he makes about the experience.

He is known to introduce himself as a “failed accountant”. That, he explains, is simply to establish a rapport with the audience. “People today are all stressed out about home economics, and accountants are the current bogeymen. [Since when?]

Dodd is the butt of a lot of his material and repeated references are made to his love of money, his dislike of what he insists on calling the Inland Revenue and his past run-in with them. “They sent me a self-assessment form the other day. To me! I invented self-assessment.”

During the trial it was revealed that Dodd had very little money in his bank account. He did however have £336,000 in cash stashed in suitcases in his attic. When asked by the judge, "What does a…