Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2008

Cross Tax

The current edition of HMRC's Agent Update introduces something new to the tax vocabulary. ‘Cross Tax”.

Does it mean:
a) What you get when HMRC staff are overstressed and unhappy?
b) A big balancing payment that a client wasn't expecting to have to pay; or
c) 'Across the taxes’ as opposed to applying to just one area, such as corporation tax?

The answer is (c).
Under this heading come updates on the Anti-Avoidance Simplification Review and further information on New Powers as well as news that HMRC will stop issuing 'Reply Paid' Business Response Envelopes from 1 October 2008, with the exception for those issued for benefits and credits. Taxpayers must now do it all online. And they may not all be happy about that. Maybe 'Cross Tax' is the right expression after all.

More quotes

“I never ask my accountants to help me to make a decision. I rely on my gut feeling and then call in the accountants to make it work.”

Richard Branson

"When I asked my accountant if anything could get me out of the mess I am in now, he thought for a long time.... "yes" he said. "Death would help."

Robert Morley

Previous quotes on this blog can be found here, here and here

Black Books - Cooking the Books

I've only recently heard of the Black Books 'sit com' that was first broadcast almost 8 years ago in September 2000.

In the first episode we are introduced to Bernard, the alcoholic Irish book shop owner. But, Bernard has a problem. His taxes need doing, he's mathematically illiterate, and there's no avoiding it.

Here's a short (100 second) extract where Bernard attempts to complete his self assessment tax return without any help:

If you want the full 5 minute clip, it's worth it for the other things he does to avoid doing his tax return and especially for the final 10 seconds.

The Chancellor's dance

I think we've all seen this one too many times now.

In this new dance craze, the Chancellor's Excuse Me - you follow Gordon and Alastair and take one step forward, two steps back, then sidestep the issue.

Drawing up the hearse and letting them smell the flowers

When I was a partner in a large firm one of my colleagues had an enviable reputation. He was a really nice guy and yet was also renowned for his ability to persuade prospective clients that their problems were much worse than they had assumed when they arrived for meetings with him.

He described his approach as:

"drawing up the hearse and letting them smell the flowers".
I was reminded of this recently when I was told about one of the Big 4 firms. Apparently they studiously avoid giving any advice during initial meetings with prospective clients. I was told:

"If you go in knowing nothing, you know nothing more coming out, but you're very, very scared!"


What matters most?

Not sure if this counts as funny or sad.

Last year Kevin Slevin shared with me his experience of the approach that many small firms of accountants adopt when seeking good tax advice: STEP ONE Ask a number of providers what the advice will cost STEP TWO Pick the cheapest provider STEP THREE Hope the advice received is correct. Sometimes it works!!

What not to do after a job interview as an accountant

Yesterday's Sunday Times included a piece about the 'explosion in text messaging'.

Amongst the stories referred to in the article was this salutary lesson:

Take the example of Ed, a university graduate from Manchester who applied for a job with a top accountancy firm in London. After a virtuoso performance at the interview, the vice-president in charge of recruitment gave him his mobile number in case he had any questions. Young Ed thought nothing of texting him the next day with the following message: “m8, wot a gr8 intvw!! u shld def give me the job lol.”

Needless to say, the vice-president did not oblige.
Of course one could question the accuracy of the story. I suspect it is based on an original story about an American graduate applying for a job in the US office of an accountancy firm. After all, whoever heard of a UK firm with a "vice-president in charge of recruitment"?!

The balloonist and the accountant

Michael Heaney tells the story of a friend of his who was out in a hot air balloon when he crash landed in a field.

Dusting himself down he saw a man walking a dog and called out to him. The man came over and my friend asked him where he was.

The man thought for a moment and said "You are about 2 feet off the ground in a wicker basket in the middle of a green field".

My friend said "You're a Chartered Accountant aren't you" The man said "Yes, how did you know?" My friend replied "It was simple really, the information you gave me was precise, accurate and totally bl**dy useless!"

(Had the joke finished here as it normally does, I might not have included it here as I'm not keen on reinforcing old stereotypes. But it continues with the Accoutant's reply to the balloonist:)

"And you must be a Manager -
you don't know where you are or where you are going,you have failed to control the situation you find yourself in. and now you ex…