Friday, December 26, 2008

Taxable Christmas benefits in kind?

The final item in Taxation magazine's "Readers' Forum" for 2008 is worthy of note here:
On a visit to the UK last year I picked up a copy of your magazine and wonder if readers can advise me. I am non-domiciled and non-resident (I think) in the UK – no permanent home here – but each year I work temporarily in the UK for a short period.

The work is unpaid, but I do receive benefits in kind; glasses of port, mince pies and the like. I am rather concerned that I have not declared these to HMRC in the past. Should I have done so and is there an annual tax liability to be paid on these gifts or benefits? And if there is, how is the tax calculated under self assessment?
The chosen pseudonym is "S. Claus". I wonder........

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Doing your VAT return is like being a stripper in an empty room

Full marks to Times columnist Libby Purves for what I think is probably the best commentary on the pointless VAT rate change announced in the PBR.

Here are just a few of her choice remarks:
  • The VAT reduction is the final provocation. It is a stupid tax anyway, visibly inferior to the simple old purchase tax.
  • I am an unpaid and irritable tax collector, yet of very little help to the Exchequer. It is like being a stripper in an empty room: a terrible waste of sequins and effort.
  • But the absurd and temporary 2.5 per cent reduction puts the tin lid on it. It is the silliest gesture since Harold Wilson banged double VAT on yacht equipment to annoy Ted Heath.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Taxation Board game for Christmas

Taxation magazine has produced a Taxation Board game to help bored accountants and tax advisers involve their families in their technical world over the festive season. Or maybe it's something to play in the office before you leave for Christmas.

As Richard Curtis who devised the game says, rather optimistically:

Who knows, this could be the first of a great Christmas tradition - the annual Taxation board game. Watch out for 'Taxopoly', 'Trivial Pursuit - the Tax Edition' and 'Taxudo' (the Inspector, in the office with Tolley's Orange Tax Handbook 2008-09).
To play the game just follow the guidance provided on the Taxation website:
First, snaffle the dice from that old Monopoly set under the stairs.
Next you need some playing pieces: we have provided some cut outs of famous tax faces at the foot of the game for you to use. They're downloadable along with the playing board. Download them by clicking the PDF link at the foot of this article.
You can choose (no fighting now) which of this year’s tax personalities you would like to be: Alistair Darling (Chancellor of the Exchequer), George Osborne (Shadow Chancellor), Vince Cable (the Liberal Democrats’ economic spokesperson), Dave Hartnett (HMRC’s Permanent Secretary for Tax), David Taxable (Tax Personality 2008) or Rufus (The Dog).
Alternatively, there’s always the boot from that Monopoly set.
If you really have a burning desire to be, say, Stephen Timms, Angela Eagle or Kitty Ussher – or even (for the sake of auld lang syne?) Dawn Primarolo, then you will have to track down some photos and using sticky-back tape make your own piece.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sir David Tweedie and the French

Speaking to the US online journal WebCPA about the International Accounting Standards Board, Sir David is reported to have said:
We have an understanding with the French. They don't trust me and I don't understand them. In France I'm treated like a king and you know how they treated their kings!
Vive l'entente cordiale!

My thanks to Accountancy magazine for this snippet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Edinburgh research into acountants


As reported in The Times, Body and Soul section 25 October 2008:

Need to know?

Wild claim: Accountants are colourful people with lots of friends.

What you should know:
Edinburgh researchers have studied the desperate ways finance companies try to persuade gregarious graduates that accountancy is fun. The firms use staff profiles "to confirm the existence of a social life" and stress that accountants take part in "fun activities" such as pub crawls, barbecues and discos.

Verdict: Doesn't add up.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Choosing a new accountant

Spotted this anonymous story on UK Business Forums recently in a discussion about how people choose a new accountant.
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I spent ages asking around my local area and getting positive testimonials. I eventually chose a very reputable firm based on several recommendations.

Unfortunately, the day I went for my appointment I was running late and inadvertantly walked into the accountants next door to the one I was supposed to be visiting. They said they had no recollection of my appointment (not surprising really), but sent me to an office really quickly and in no time I was talking to my new accountant.

I have since been really happy with the service they provide and wouldn't change them. I'm glad I did all that research!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Me, Myself and I

Years ago Nichola, an accountant had a bizarre conversation with HMRC concerning her own tax affairs.

She was told that as she was a sole practitioner HMRC could not discuss her own personal tax affairs without there being a form 64-8 authorisation in place. Nichola tried to explain that she was the taxpayer and if she wasn't in practice then of course HMRC would talk to her about her own tax affairs. She got nowhere so duly obliged and made herself her own agent. Years later and she still represents herself!

Thanks to Nichola Ross Martin at PLC law for this one.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

50% sacked. 50% to stay

In the last recession the day came when a mid sized firm needed to downsize. Half of the twenty-strong accounting staff were duly handed their redundancy notices, as were half the admin and backroom staff. The letters left them in no doubt the firm would be better off without them.

Selecting the half to make redundant had been a no-brainer for the partners: the firm was staffed by a mixture of very competent young people at various stages of training, and a motley crew of duffers who were mostly a waste of space. Some even had quirks that made them automatic choices: there was one guy who always arrived at the crack of dawn each morning - only to spend an hour on expensive sex chat-lines! And a twenty-something female who looked as though butter wouldn't melt, but was transformed into a door-slamming Banshee whenever told to go work on-site.


One of the staff who had been selected to stay, was recently qualified, and head-hunted by his former mentor, a Big 4 Partner branching out with his own practice. Promoted to manager and charged with staffing the new practice, he offered jobs to all of the remaining competent 50% of the firm's staff - professional and admin. All accepted.


Thus it came that, having only just received their redundancy notices, Mr Sex-chat, Miss Banshee, and all the other duffers received gushing letters informing them the firm had had second thoughts. The partners didn't, after all, want to lose staff of their calibre, and would they care to stay?


Found this story on AccountingWeb, posted by 'Andrew'