Thursday, July 31, 2008

Letter to the taxman

Below is text from an actual letter received by the Revenue Commissioners at Co. Longford, Ireland, from a farmer in reply to a final income tax demand.

Dear Sirs,
Your letter arrived this morning in an open envelope and it would have given my son and myself pleasure had it not revived in us a melancholy reflection of thought the account could have been settled long ago, and you could not understand why it hadn't. Well, here is the reason.

In 1987 I purchased a hay shed on credit. In 1988 I bought a combine harvester, a manure spreader, two horses, a double barrel shifter, two cows and ten razor back pigs, also on credit.

In 1989 the bloody hay shed burnt to the ground leaving not a damn thing. I got no insurance either as the bloody premium lapsed. One of the horses went lame and I loaned the other one to my brother who starved the poor bugger to death.

In 1990 my father died and my brother was put away when he tried to marry one of his sheep named Hilda. A knacker got my daughter pregnant and I had to pay him a grand to stop him becoming one of my relatives.

In 1991 my son got the mumps which spread to his balls and he had to be castrated to save his life. Later in the year I went fishing on the Shannon and the bloody boat overturned, drowning two of my sons, neither being the [censored] eunuch who was by now wearing his sister's make-up and dresses. Not long after he emigrated to America with the new parish priest. They are now married and trying for children.

In 1992 my wife ran away with a pig jobber from Drumlish and left me with new-born twins as a souvenir and I had to get a housekeeper, so I married her to keep down expenses. I had a hell of a job getting her pregnant (to qualify for more children's allowance). I went to see the doctor. He advised me to create some excitement at the crucial moment so that night I brought my shotgun to bed and when I thought the moment was right I leaned out of bed and shot both barrels through the window, the wife [censored] the bed, I ruptured myself, and the next morning I found I had blown both doors off the barn, shot my best dairy cow and killed the [censored] knacker who was in the hay loft with my daughter trying to get more money out of me, which he did because I had to pay for the [censored]'s funeral expenses.

The next year, 1993, someone cut the balls off my prize bull, poisoned the water, and set fire to the house. I was bolloxed and took to the drink and did not stop until all I had left was a pocket watch and a weak bladder. Winding the watch and running for a [censored] kept me busy for a time.

This year I took heart again and bought (on the hire purchase) a bulldozer, tractor and trailer and a new bull. Then the Shannon flooded and washed the bloody lot away, my second wife got VD from a land inspector and my last surviving son died from wiping his [censored] on a poisoned rabbit I had put down for dogs who were worrying my sheep.

It surprises me very much that you say you will cause trouble if I don't pay up. If you can think of anything I've missed I should like to know about it.

Trying to get money out of me will be like trying to butter a hedgehog's hole backwards with a knitting needle. I'm praying for a cloud of cat [censored] to pass your way and I hope it will fall on you and the [censored] in your office who sent me this final demand.

Yours for more credit,
John Murphy

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Do strippers make ideal clients for accountants?

I recently heard about an accountant who specialises in strippers. Whereas other accountants might focus on solicitors(!), hospital consultants, charities or any other business sector, his reasons seem quite logical:
  • They are generally honest
  • They are high earners with good cashflow
  • They are quite up front (literally, apparently)
  • They often have big assets (Can't believe I'm typing this!)
  • They pay in cash in advance (as they have so much of it)
Are readers aware of any other less common and vaguely amusing target sectors for accountants looking to specialise?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why are the accountants listed in film credits always female?

I heard today about an accountant who tells everyone he meets that this is a fact of life. When you look at the credits that roll after a film is over, there is always an accountant listed and it's always a woman.

Now, ok, maybe it's only accountants who read the credits that far down, but is this true?

Has anyone else noticed this? Or even looked?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Have you ever been so insulted?

I'm addressing that question to the accountants who read this blog.

In today's Sunday Times Rod Liddle reports on a discussion about how to rebrand Gordon Brown. He talks to Saffron, a branding company run by Wally Olins CBE who is reported in the paper as thinking that the public could end up feeling sorry for Gordon Brown who should remember:
"..what made him attractive to the party in the first place..."
And what was that exactly? Mr Olins expands:

"This is what happens when you put an accountant in charge of the company. Disaster. The voters liked the double act of Blair and Brown; they understood that one was about presentation and ideas and the other was about accounting. That worked"

I'm not sure what's worse. The suggestion that Mr Brown is an accountant, that it's an insult to him to describe him that way or the suggestion that accountants are not qualified to run a company effectively.

I've explained elsewhere why I disagree with the campaign to limit use of the term 'accountant' to those of us who have relevant professional qualifications. Perhaps I need to revise my view if it would help distinguish qualified accountants from politicians with no accounting training or experience whatsoever!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tax Tunes

A recent US TV Channel broadcast an expose of a Team building training session for US Revenue officials (known as tax auditors) in which they revise the words of popular songs to create their own "Tax Tunes". Videos shot during the training sessions are featured in both part one and part two of the News Channel 5 programmes.

To save you the pain though here are some 'highlights':

To the tune of "Hey Jude," one group sings, "Hey, dude, the check is in the mail."

Another group dances to the music of "Eye of the Tiger," instead celebrating the "eye of the auditor."

One auditor dressed in an aluminum-foil cone bra, sings Madonna's "Like a Virgin" as "Like an Auditor."

To the music of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" another group sings about fuel taxes. "Burn, burn, burn."

Still another group sings, "We're working for the tax money on the chain gang."

"Oh, oh, we're toiling on the chain gang.
And we're frightening taxpayers while we're working
On the chain gang."

To the tune of "In Da Club," a black-clad group raps, "Go. Go. Go, money. It's your tax day."

One group chimed:

"It's my audit,
And I'll tax if I want to.
Tax if I want to.
Tax if I want to."

Another one sang "Taxpayer, watch out! Watch out for me!" - and:

"I'll be there
To come and audit you.
I'll be there.
No matter what you do."

There's also one where the tax auditors worry about not digging up any dirt during what we'd call a tax investigation:

"We all remember being blue,
Another audit no tax due.
We were sure that we were screwed.
The day the bills went through."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guess what he's talking about

It was only when I was gifted a subscription to 'Private Eye' for my 50th birthday that I became an avid reader and fan. What have I been missing all these years?!

I've already commented on one item from this week's issue on my Tax Advice Network blog. This one is in a similar vein but more light hearted as befits this blog.

It concerns Tory backbencher Sir Nicholas Winterton and quotes an extract of his contribution to a debate in the House of Commons, as recorded in Hansard on on 7 July:

I am concerned about the elderly who need to use [xxxx].

Is [the Minister] concerned about the fact that elderly people, in particular, may not be getting value for money or a fair deal, because the system is so complicated that they do not understand how to go through it...?.


Of course you might imagine the xxxx refers to some element of the tax or tax credits system. It could so easily do so, couldn't it?! In fact Sir Nicholas was bemoaning the difficulties that the elderly have with public transport. If only that was all they had to worry about.

Do prostitutes charge VAT?

Back in 2002 a High Court judge ruled that the VATman is perfectly entitled to pursue prostitutes. Mr Justice Jacob decided that members of the world's oldest profession should not be allowed to exploit a loophole because of their illegal activities and avoid paying VAT.

The case followed an earlier VAT tribunal ruling that an escort agency was unlawful and therefore could not be taxed.

The tribunal said the business "consists wholly, or at least very substantially, of the procurement of women for the purposes of their becoming common prostitutes".

When the tribunal found that the agency was "straightforwardly criminal", it meant that Customs and Excise could not claim VAT.

The owners had always claimed their business was lawful but said their turnover was below the threshold for VAT. But the judge overturned the ruling. He said: "I conclude that this case is not within the very narrow rules which allow moral scruple by a paradox to reward criminality by exempting it from taxation."

Under EU harmonisation of taxation, VAT is payable on a wide range of services without any difference being drawn over whether it is legal or illegal. Only drug dealing and counterfeit money apparently escape being taxed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Faulty accounting

The EU has set up a special commission to monitor all funds going to Bulgaria and Romania. My tutor told me a joke about this.

“When we were occupied by the Roman Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting.

When we were occupied by the Byzantine Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting.

When were were occupied by the Ottoman Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting.

When we were occupied by the Soviet Empire, we destroyed them with our faulty accounting.

Now the European Union has set up these commissions to monitor our accounting and we will surely destroy the EU!”

As reported by a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in the Republic of Bulgaria.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I Like Being An Accountant

A couple of months back the David Letterman show, which regularly features funny Top ten lists, asked ten US accountants (CPAs) to explain the top ten reasons that they like being an accountant.
Sadly there are a number of stereotypes in the list.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The long arm of the Australian Tax Authorities

Crocodile Dundee actor Paul Hogan is reported to have told Australian tax authorities to “come and get me”. This was after he learned in California that the Australian Taxation Office is asking the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to help round up nine years’ worth of records from three U.S. banks.


The actor told The Australian newspaper that the tax authorities are on a “long-distance fishing expedition” to get his financial records. Four companies related to him are allegedly part of the probe. But Hogan is defiant. “They should build a statue of me up there at the tax office,” he said to reporters outside his Santa Barbara mansion, according to wire reports.


Despite the tax probe, Hogan plans to return to his native country in September to shoot a movie. “I’ll be arrested the minute I land on the shore, of course, but I have a gun, so be warned,” he said to Australia’s Ten Network television channel.


With thanks to WEB CPA for spotting this one.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taxation 3.0

I was chatting with John Stokdyk of AccountingWeb on Tuesday and mentioned a magazine that often publishes my quotes and advice on careers related issues for younger tax professionals.
It's called Taxation2 (to distinguish it from Taxation itself)

I liked John's suggestion that a more modern title would be Taxation 2.0 (two point zero).

We both then had the same idea. My Tax Advice Network is Taxation 3.0 (Not that we in any way compete with Taxation magazine!)

For anyone not quite following this - we were inspired by the references to the internet that have progressed from web 2.0 to web 3.0 in a very short period of time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What would you search for?

I recently celebrated the first 'half-birthday' of the launch of the Tax Advice Network. I noted that over the first 6 months since launch thousands of searches have been performed on the site;

Perhaps the strangest search term was 'VAT on colonic irrigation'!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

At what point do you enter or leave the UK?

I hesitate to share another Absurd Tax 'funny' so soon after the last one but it's worth it.

The tax rules for counting days of residence in the UK have changed recently making this question more relevant than ever before. Previously days of arrival and departure were not counted.

The new legislation includes a clear exemption for any day on which someone's presence in the United Kingdom is solely as a passenger in a part of an airport or port not accessible to members of the public unless they are arriving in or departing from the United Kingdom.

HMRC have therefore confirmed that changing planes in the UK (eg: on a flight from the USA to a European destination) would not be counted as a day of residence here - as if anyone could seriously have suggested otherwise.

So in the case of flight delays and trips in and around 5 April, how far do you have to get through the airport to have entered or left the UK? Assume you're leaving, is it enough to have gone through passport control? Customs? Into the departure lounge? On the plane? Flown off?

And of course the reverse would be true for arrivals. I can see it now, someone lands in the UK just before midnight and loiters before going though passport control until after the clock strikes 12.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anti Tax Man

An amusing idea was raised recently on The Magic Circle discussion forum (Yes - I'm a member although I don't perform as often as I used to; it's my age you know!)

We all make things vanish, transpose, appear, transform etc on a daily basis. What if you woke up one day & found you really could do this stuff? Maybe after being bitten by a radioactive magic rabbit?

No props, no gimmicks, just real magical powers

Would you simply become the worlds greatest magician? Or don a colourful costume & save the world from injustice?

If you chose the latter & became a super hero - what would you call yourself?

I thought I'd become 'Anti Tax Man'. Well, I couldn't call myself, SuperTaxMan could I?

Any better suggestions? Please add them by way of comments on this thread or by email.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tax fees condom

This was almost the description ascribed to CCH new Premier Protection policy at its public launch last week.

I say 'almost' as nobody did quite describe the policy in this way. But Marketing Manager, Tori Moreton was hobbling around with her leg in a plaster cast. She explained that when it rained she had to wear what she described as a 'legdom' - which apparently is a tight rubber sleeve of some sort that keeps the water out and the plaster dry.

I can't recall who suggested that the new tax fee protection policy was a bit like a condom too!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Did the 2007/08 tax year end on Friday 4th or Monday 7th April?

The last day of fiscal year 2007/08 was Saturday 5 April and the first day of 2008/09 was Sunday 6 April.

Does it matter?

Well I recently heard an accountant talking about how it could be very relevant to one his clients who is affected by the new remittance basis rules. The client was planning to avoid making any remittances to the UK in 2008/09. He arranged his last remittance on Friday 4 April 2008.

However, although he instructed his bank to make the remittance on the Friday, and the money left his US bank account that afternoon, it did not arrive in his UK bank account until Monday 7 April.

Was it remitted on the 4th (in 2007/08) or on the 7th (in 2008/09) when it was received?

The sum involved was substantial. Would you credit it?!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Debt, debt, glorious debt,

Debt, debt, glorious debt,
Nothing quite like it for making you sweat,
so borrow and borrow, like there’s no tomorrow
and there we will wallow in glorious debt.

Thanks to Richard Murphy for highlighting this (which is apparently taken from Living Economy in NZ)

Apologies to Flanders and Swann and the hippopotamus!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Death is a serious business

Just before the start of a recent session of Matthew Huttons' excellent Monthly Tax Reviews (MTR), a discussion ensued as to the different names that some firms had for their Estate Planning teams.

One lady said that her group were called 'The Wills Girls' (or was that 'Willing'?).

My favourite though was the lady who said that her partners referred to her team as 'The Deads'. She also made a follow up comment that I didn't quite catch about her husband's view of this description. I'd best not speculate as to what he might have said!

I'd be grateful for further suggestions of unusual names for such teams, by way of comments on this thread or by email.

Monday, July 07, 2008

"From tax to taxidermy"

I saw this used to description the range of expertise that would be addressed in a new top quality business/lifestyle magazine:
4 Community.

I'm afraid I could see the connection immediately - just what most people want to do with the taxman. Stuff him!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Why is HMRC so keen on electronic filing?

This may be apocryphal of course but an ex member of HMRC staff told one of his friends that the reason should be obvious to us all.

If all returns were filed online it wouldn't be possible for HMRC to lose them - as still apparently happens with paper based returns (and CDs!)

Accountants and sex

The cover of the June issue of Accountancy magazine was adorend by what some have described as a 'racy' picture of a young lady in fishnets, high heels and a skimpy little black negligee. She was lounging on a red velvet backdrop holding a fan of playing cards with others scattered around her and one tucked into her garter.

Beneath the picture the first line was: New ICAEW President.
For the record, the new president is David Furst with whom I worked closely for many years during my time at Horwath Clark Whitehill. Indeed, David proposed me for partnership there.

A closer study of the cover reveals the real headline for the photo is further up the page:
Gambling tips - seducing the finance world.

I've just heard that readers in the Middle East are wondering why the authorities have removed the cover such that Accountancy is being distributed 'coverless' (or is that, 'topless'?).

Is this the first time that Accountancy magazine has been censored?