Thursday, December 31, 2009

7 new taxes for 2010

The following were proposed in jest by Simon Sweetman on AccountingWeb:
  1. a Twitter tax, levied at .001p per tweet
  2. an iPhone tax, levied only for boasting about what it can do
  3. a tax on the downloading of tracks simply as part of a campaign to get a Christmas number one
  4. a Wii tax levied on the breaking of household objects
  5. a tax on irritating ringtones, doubled for Christmas ones
  6. a tax on plastic packaging for toys that needs an entrenching tool and a pneumatic drill to open
  7. a tax on muzak and double for Christmas muzak, treble for Christmas muzak before December
As Simon says, with all these: "We should be well on the way to clearing the national debt – just need a few more suggestions..."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ron Howard plans a tv comedy set in a local IRS office

The news that a Ron Howard taxman comedy lands at Fox was reported by Reuters in September.

It will be written by Brent Forrester, writer-director on another workplace comedy, NBC's "The Office." Forrester and Howard are executive producing with Howard's partners at Imagine TV, Brian Grazer and David Nevins.

"It's an idea Ron had toyed with for many years as a feature," Nevins said. "Eventually, Brian and I convinced him it would be better as a TV show."

The three met with several writers until hitting it off with Forrester.

"The one thing that unites all Americans is their suspicion and hatred for the IRS," Forrester said. "That makes the characters on the show underdogs, because outside the office everyone is suspicious of them."

The IRS agent at the center "is trying hard to believe that his job is good and noble and provides a very important, vital service," Forrester said. "It's a classic workplace show; the model for it is 'Taxi,'" Forrester said.

"In essence, it's a group of eclectic characters who have come to the job from different paths and who represent different points of view and different voices."

There will be procedural elements to the show, too.

"'L.A. Law' had lawsuits, and 'CSI' has murders; this show has audits, tax collection and special ops, with the FBI against organized crime and drug dealers," Forrester said.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beware your comments on taxman's youtube videos

This is a perfectly feasible scenario of the type I warned about on the TaxBuzz blog earlier in the year: HMRC investigating posts on social media. But do see the note at the very end below!
Mark Krowly didn't take kindly to IRS agent Gerald Fitts making a YouTube video warning potential tax dodgers to look out this season; he told the IRS to "f--k off" during a 197 character rant that may have led to his audit.

Krowly says he was angry the IRS would invade a "peaceful hamlet like YouTube with fussy, veiled threats," and was investigated by the IRS shortly after leaving his comment, a comment he admits crossed the line.

"I basically challenged the legitimacy of the tax, as well as the legitimacy of Mr. Fitts' birth," he said.

Before being audited he received dozens of emails from concerned YouTube citizens who warned him he might need to get his financial affairs in order. Krowly realized at that point he was "pretty much toast."

When he tried to erase his comment, a cryptic message on the webpage said "Comments Disabled." Krowly's comment had gone into the void, as well as hundreds of others. The IRS would not comment on these comments, or if it is procedure to collect them.

A woman in Utah wishing to stay anonymous says she is particularly worried about Krowly's fate, because she "commented" directly underneath his comments in support of his opinion.

She has hired an attorney.
Please note that this comes from (which means it's not a true story)!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Take more care when charging for 'time spent' on clients' affairs

As reported by an anonymous contributor on AccountingWeb, using the pseudonym 'Welsh dragon':
We took over a client a few years ago. The reason he had decided to move was that on Christmas eve he had telephoned his accountant and said to him that he and a few colleagues were in the pub next to the accountant's offices and would the accountant like to join them. The accountant said "no".
Next time the client received a bill from the accountant he noticed that he had been charged for the accountant taking that 'phone call.
That single entry cost the accountant a client - and no, it wasn't the well known firm of Scrooge & Marley.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The 12 days of Taxmas - a reworked Christmas Carol

First line: On the first day of Taxmas the taxman sent to me:
- A rejection of my time to pay plea

The second verse:

On the second day of Taxmas, the taxman sent to me
- Two demand notes and
- A rejection of my time to pay plea

...and so forth. The last verse is:

On the twelfth day of Taxmas, the taxman sent to me
Twelve months to pay my debt
Eleven penalty charges
Ten confusing statements of account
Nine booklets on 'How to complain'
Eight explanatory leaflets
Seven website links
Six excuses for the delay
Five more queries
Four VAT returns to file
Three blank tax returns
Two demand notes and
One reluctant acceptance of my time to pay plea.

When I had the idea for this I checked online and found there was an old US version of the 12 days of Taxmas. Mine was developed independently.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Accountant dies and goes to heaven

An Accountant dies and goes to heaven. Saint Peter starts asking him all the usual questions required to get into heaven.

The accountant, it seems, has repeatedly helped people cheat on their taxes and embezzle funds. Finally, in exasperation, St Peter asks, “Well, have you ever done anything good, anything totally unselfish and altruistic in your entire life?”

“Well,” says the accountant, “Once I saw this pretty lady being beaten up by a bunch of hoodies. So I yelled “Hey jerks, why don’t you pick on somebody your own size” and then I reached for my mobile phone to call the police, and took off running. They forgot about her for a second and she managed to run also.

Saint Peter asks, “I’m looking through the book of your life, and I don’t see this incident recorded. When did it occur?”

The accountant replies, “About five minutes ago.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ten arguments used to justify NOT filing tax returns

The following were the ten points argued by a Mr Bell in letters to HMRC and the lower tier Tax Tribunal recently as to why he considers that he is not required to file tax returns:

(1) As all humans are created equal, government and the making of legislation requires the consent of the governed

(2) As a result of the UK joining the EEC, the UK has ceded its sovereignty to (what is now) the EU. In doing so it acted dishonestly and abused the process of law making to pursue a course of action which is contrary to its primary purpose thereby negating the sole source of its legitimacy. Laws promulgated by Parliament therefore no longer have the consent of the governed and are therefore no longer binding.

(3) All humans have an absolute right to own property which is gained as a result of their own efforts. Taxation is necessary to pay for government service. Rightful taxation can only be by contract as payment for government service. Since the UK government and Parliament are no longer responsible for the governance of the UK, taxation imposed by HMRC is coercive seizure of rightfully held property and cannot be justified.

(4) As the transfer of sovereignty from Parliament to the EU was effected without the consent of the people, the people have a right to challenge Parliament's actions, and Mr Bell therefore has a right to refuse to file income tax returns.

(5) Cessation of control over borders and the subordination of the UK's legal system to that of the EU effectively dissolves the UK. The UK no longer exists as a separate legal entity.

(6) It is essential that HMRC issue Mr Bell with a statement that they recognise that it is the right of the UK people to govern themselves, and that every individual owns the right to property. Failure to do so demonstrates total absence of bone fide intent on the part of HMRC, in that they are knowingly complicit in Parliament's attempts to strip us of these fundamental rights through the machinery of the law

(7) The EU constitution is the constitution of a totalitarian state

(8) EU regulations routinely require specific performance

(9) Liberty is valued second only to life itself

(10) Peaceful resolution of dispute requires submission to reason

Bell v Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs [2009] UKFTT 270 (TC)

Monday, December 07, 2009

2049 - A vision of the tax side of the accountancy profession

AccountancyAge kindly asked me to supply 100 words on what the tax profession might look like in 40 years time. They published my vision last week.

Imagine my surprise to note that the only other tax vision they published was that of Dave Hartnett who took the invitation a little more seriously than did I. Here's what I have forecast.
There will be only two remaining professional bodies for tax agents. Businesses
will tend to seek tax advice from registered accountants but private clients
will prefer registered tax advisers as tax is more important to them than
accountancy. Registered tax advisers will typically work alone or be employed by registered accountants, by lawyers or by big brands such as RAAC, Tescobury, InsurancesDirect, The National Bank or The European Public Library and Computer Service. All registered tax advisers will have a revenue officer liaison opposite (ROLO) as their direct contact point in His Majesty’s Revenue Collection Service.

What do you think?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ten famous people who were nearly accountants

All of the following trained to be accountants - in some cases, not for very long but found fame through other talents and skills:
  1. Arnold Brown - "Possibly the only Glaswegian Jewish ex-chartered accountant stand up comedian in the world".
  2. Eddie Izzard - failed accountancy student who turned to surreal stand-up comedy and acting. His father was Harold Izzard, a former president of the institute of internal auditors and chief auditor of BP.
  3. Robert Plant - gave up accountancy training to sing for the rock band Led Zeppelin.
  4. David Graveney OBE - former chairman of the England Test selectors (1997 until 2008).
  5. John Grisham - the novelist is well known for being a lawyer prior to his writing career. His first degree however was in Accounting from Mississippi State University.
  6. Bob Newhart - American funny man who got his first job out of the army working as an accountant in downtown Chicago.
  7. Alan ("Fluff") Freeman - DJ Alan Freeman worked as an assistant paymaster/accountant for one of Australia's largest timber companies after leaving school.
  8. Pádraig Harrington - the Irish professional golfer passed his final exams in 1994 to gain admittance to ACCA.
  9. Fred MacAulay - the Scottish Comedian graduated from the University of Dundee with an MA in accountancy and jurisprudence. He went on to work as an accountant in a number of companies before moving into Comedy.
  10. Ron Moody - British actor probably best known for playing the part of Fagin in the stage and film versions of Oliver, he originally trained to be an accountant at the London School of Economics.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Unleash your inner accountant

BMW ads have featured this line for around 12 months but I saw it for the first time only yesterday.

What is it trying to say to the reader?

What accountant-like qualities are being implied?

All views welcome - by way of comments below please.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The wages of sin...

"The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling"

- Paula Poundstone (American Stand up Comedienne) - as reported on twitter by @DianeKennedyCPA

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bob Newhart's theory of accounting

American funny man Bob Newhart originally trained to be an accountant. He explains that when attempting reconciliations he reckoned that:
"as long as you got within two or three bucks of it, you were all right. But that didn’t catch on … At the end of the day I had to balance the petty cash with the slips—every time you give out money you had to get a slip. It had to balance. Well, I’d be there for three or four hours tying to figure out where the last dollar or dime went to. So finally I’d just take it out of my pocket and I’d put it in. If there were two dollars leftover, I’d take it out … And they told me you can’t do that. You gotta find it. I said, “you’re paying me five dollars an hour to find two cents—it doesn’t make sense.” So I wasn’t a very good accountant."
His 1988 biography quotes Newhart as saying that if he hadn’t taken a gamble with comedy he would still be an accountant:
“Keep in mind, when I started in the late fifties, I didn’t say to myself, ‘Oh, here’s a great void to fill—I’ll be a balding ex-accountant who specializes in low-key humor.’ That’s simply what I was and that’s the direction my mind always went in, so it was natural for me to be that way.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More accountant fun courtesy of twitter

It's been a while since I last posted some of the more amusing tweets that deserve a place on this blog:

When i was younger, i remember my mom joked and told some1 she had me just for the tax deduction. the irony? her son is now an accountant.
- Diggy0383

I've just handed over 2 years worth of receipts, bank statements and phone bills. Now Mr Accountant, go and work your tax liability magic
- SimonRossyRoss

Meetings with accountant and web designer today. Tax codes and source codes in one day! No jargon please Rod and David.
- gilarthurgood

just ask an accountant any kind of financial/tax question and see if the reply doesn't start with, "It depends..."

A few things in life that i have learned that u need #1 is (GOD), a tax accountant,lawyer and a good doctor

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to do tax advice naked

The way some people's minds work!

Full marks though to Tony Sanchez for suggesting the title of a new TV show: How to do tax advice naked.

This was Tony's inspired reaction as to where I will heading next after he read a short note I posted recently on twitter: Just been approached out of the blue by a fashion and beauty journalist for tax comment on a story that was in the news in September. Huh?

The first response was provided by Mike Smith who asked:
Were you surprised they didn't want a fashion and beauty comment Mark ? ;-)

Anyone else feel inspired to comment here perhaps?

Friday, November 13, 2009

HMRC award for tax transparency

Towards the end of his speech at last night's Hardman memorial lecture Dave Hartnett mentioned that HMRC were planning to introduce an annual award; it will be presented to the individual, practice or company which HMRC considers has made the biggest contribution to transparency in the tax sector.

Dave said the audience should get too excited however as the award would not be valuable, nor he hoped, taxable!

Dave Hartnett breaks a personal promise

As I arrived at the ICAEW for last night's Hardman memorial lecture, Dave Hartnett spotted me and came over to say hello. He also promised an end to his recurring joshing - ever since the 2003 Wyman Debate which I chaired. By Dave's own admission his teasing at a recent Treasury event was a little pointed. That aside I've taken the teasing with good humour.

When the lecture started, Dave was introduced by Chris Sanger who made reference to the outcome of the 2003 Wyman debate. Chris noted that Dave had led the opposition to the motion: "This House believes that tax is not a moral issue – it’s purely a matter of law" and then referred to the official outcome of the debate which I've written about previously on this blog: Dave Hartnett thinks accountants can't count - and it's my fault

After Chris's intro Dave mounted the platform and immediately departed from his prepared script. He told the audience of how he'd met me earlier in the evening and of his promise; he then duly broke it - with an apology to me that he had had to do so as Chris had brought up the subject and Dave had to defend his honour. I would have done the same thing had our positions been reversed.

I was very touched later in the evening that Dave made a point of finding me to apologise for having to break his promise. I'm not sure he had any choice though given the subject matter of his lecture last night: Tax, transparency and trust. ;-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Marketing Strategy of the Year. And the winner is........

Do we laugh or cry?

At the The National Business Awards ceremony last night one of the awards was for The Marketing Strategy of the Year.
"This Award will be made for a specific marketing campaign in the period 1st Jan 2008 to 31st May 2009 that has achieved high levels of commercial success for the relevant product or service. The judges will look for innovation and a clearly expressed and articulated objective led campaign strategy leading to measurable and verifiable business results."
The shortlist of finalists included:
  • Aviva
  • Great Lengths Hair
  • King of Shaves
  • Nationwide Autocentre
  • Resonates
  • The British Heart Foundation
  • Toptable
  • Unilever
And the winner of the Marketing Strategy of the Year Award is: HMRC, London, SW1A 2HQ

I note that the keynote speaker was Alistair Darling, The Chancellor of the Exchequer. Some might suggest that he's ultimately the Minister responsible for HMRC. A coincidence I'm sure.
During his speech he did correct those who might have misunderstood the purpose of the event:
"...this is where Britain’s best, from across the public and private sectors, get the recognition and reward they deserve."
I've yet been unable to work out exactly what was HMRC's winning marketing strategy as the relevant page of the Awards website is down at the mo.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sir Humphrey’s new charter?

Copied with due credit from an anonymous posting on AccountingWeb

We will:

  • Treat you as dishonest, believing you are willing to pay whatever we dream up, stop you from appealing or reducing your bill, unless you are an MP.
  • Respect you to the same standard we treat our staff. We aim to treat everyone the same, but some better than others.
  • Provide you with inaccurate information, creating extra stress, work and costs for you and our staff, hoping to make it hard for everyone who tries to get things right.
  • Recognise your right to be represented by someone else, then undermine them as a route to increasing costs and stress on you and thereby destroying your will to resist.
  • Pursue relentlessly those that break or bend the rules, then promote them.
  • Lose the information that we hold about you. Expediency and plausible deniability are cornerstones of our Data Protection policy.

What we expect of you:

  • Trust us, we are from the government and are here to help you. You need our help because you don’t know what is good for you.
  • Give us all your money, even if you don’t have any left. You may think that impossible, but as always you’re wrong and we’re always right. Alastair Darling is printing money and giving it away to the banks so that they can lend it to you, at high rates, in order that you can pay us the money you don’t have.
  • Tell us if you are going bankrupt, as always we have a leaflet that will help you, we may wish to do it to you before anyone else.
  • Work with us to ensure your payments are lost within our Super Highend Information Technology systems that you will be paying for in years to come.
  • Respect our staff, irrespective of whether some are dishonest and reprehensible characters like so many of their incompetent superiors.
  • Contact us when you need help, advice or support, letting us know if you have particular needs so that we may ensure your risk assessment is corrected, allowing us to ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is this how accounting works and how we can get debt free?

It is the month of August, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea it is raining, and the little town looks totally deserted. It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

Suddenly, a rich tourist comes to town.

He enters the only hotel, lays a 100 Euro note on the reception counter, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to choose one.

The hotel proprietor takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the 100 Euro note, and runs to pay his debt to the pig grower.

The pig grower takes the 100 Euro note, and runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.

The supplier of feed and fuel takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the town's prostitute who in these hard times, gave her "services" on credit.

The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the 100 Euro note to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.

The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 Euro note back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment, the tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes his 100 Euro note, after saying that he did not like any of the rooms, and leaves town.

No one earned anything. No one produced anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.....

First seen in HM Williams newsletter 'Account'

Sunday, November 01, 2009

David Frost on the creed of the Inland Revenue

"If we can bring one little smile to one little face today, then somebody's slipped up somewhere."
- Sir David Frost

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Andersens went into Deloitte.

Some firms merge.
Sometimes one firm acquires the other.
Sometimes this is referred to as a takeover.

Recently I heard that, back in 2002 when Andersens went into Deloitte, the words 'merger', 'acquisition' and 'takeover' were all banned. Instead staff and partners were instructed that the correct and only word to use was simply, the 'transaction'.

Perhaps this was to avoid references to my preferred description of so many such 'transactions' - a mergeover.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Am I a sad old GIT?

Sadly I have to admit that I am Genuinely Interested in Tax (GIT).

Who else fits this description?

I think it was Tony Jenkins who I first heard admitting he was a sad GIT (for the same reason)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Forwarding scam tax refund emails to HMRC

So, what happens when you forward an obvious scam tax refund e-mail to HMRC?

Peter Lashmar received this automated reply:
Subject: Inappropriate Attachment

The following email message contains an unacceptable attachment and has been blocked.

From: peter@xxxxxxxx
Subject: FW: Recalculation of your fiscal acitivity
Date: 10/20/09
Time: 14:01:23

The Sender should contact the addressee to discuss an alternative method of sending the information.

The blocked message will be deleted after 30 days.
In other words HMRC's spam blocker blocks the very messages that HMRC is asking people to forward to them. Doh!

Richard Murphy has been diagnosed as suffering

During his presentation at Dave Hartnett's Business Breakfast at the Treasury yesterday morning, Richard Murphy reminded us that his wife is a doctor.

Apparently she has diagnosed him as having what he suspects is a terminal disease - Excitement by Taxation!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If Gordon were King and life were a fairy tale...

One day king Gordon called to the palace his chief tax collector, Dave. ‘I really must have some more taxes’ said the king ‘otherwise I will not have anything to pay my servants (and that includes you, by the way). But I don’t want to annoy my subjects, so what can we do?’

‘We don’t need any new laws’ explained Dave ‘in fact you could just issue a proclamation that from now on we will expect your subjects and especially the bankers to forget the actual wording of the law and instead act in accordance with your Majesty’s intentions when making those laws. No one need bother about the written laws ever again! We could call this concept “the spirit of the law”.’

‘But how do I know what my intentions were?’ exclaimed the king, ‘I just pass the laws you give me.’

‘Sire, I shall be more than happy to tell your Majesty what your Majesty’s intentions were, should the need ever arise’ beamed Dave, bowing lowly.

Adapted from a wonderful fairy tale penned by Trevor Johnson, a senior technical editor with CCH. UK tax advisers and accountants may notice a similarity between the fairy tale and prospective developments in the interpretation of our tax laws.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Watch out if you don't weigh your bananas properly

Who'd have thought that bananas outweighed all other produce?

The recently published Customs Information Paper 67 notifies businesses that the liability to customs civil penalties will be changing to take account of recent changes in European legislation. The changes relate to just the following four areas:
  1. Authorised Economic Operator (AEO): Businesses that fail to notify changes which affect the ability to be an AEO may be subject to a penalty;
  2. Transit: the transit amendments reflect the recent changes that have been made to European Legislation;
  3. Preference: Any business that provides incorrect information for obtaining preferential treatment or proof of origin may be subject to a penalty; and
  4. Banana weighing: Businesses which fail to fulfil the necessary conditions necessary to weigh bananas may be subject to a penalty.
Why just bananas? Isn't that just bananas?!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Children who work at least 16 hours a week

The Working Tax Credit is more widely available than some people might think. HMRC are keen to publicise this although it seems that, in so doing, at least one local authority is condoning bad parenting. Hertfordshire's website states that:
"The Working Tax Credit is available to qualifying individuals with children who work at least 16 hours per week."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tax Institute's Charter set to music

At the CIOT President's reception last night in Drapers' Hall, London, President Andrew Hubbard conducted a choral recital of the Institute’s Royal Charter, which he had composed himself for the occasion.

The Charter, issued by the Queen in 1994, sets out the Institute’s objectives and gives it the right to call itself a ‘Chartered Institute’.

The text of the edited version of the Charter performed by the City of London Choir, conducted by Andrew Hubbard, was:

ELIZABETH THE SECOND by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Our other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith:


WHEREAS an humble Petition has been presented to Us by The Institute of Taxation (a company limited by guarantee and hereinafter referred to as “the Company”) praying that We might be graciously pleased to grant a Royal Charter.

The objects of the Institute shall be... to advance public education in and promote the study of the administration and practice of taxation and the principles of economic and political science in relation to taxation.

And it is Our Royal Will and Pleasure that this Our Charter shall ever be construed benevolently and in every case most favourably to the Institute.

IN WITNESS whereof We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent.

Witness Ourself at Westminster the twenty-ninth day of April in the forty-third year of Our Reign.

THE SCHEDULE. President: Malcolm James Gammie. Deputy President: Ian David Luder. Vice-President: Gerald Victor Hart

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Accountant fired for sending emails in CAPS

A New Zealand accountant has learned the importance of email etiquette after losing her job because she sent too many emails that were written in all caps, with a red and bold font.


Having lost her job in Dec 2007 she later received compensation for unfair dismissal from her former employer according to the New Zealand Herald.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Why I love paying tax"

Loved this piece by Caitlin Moran in the Times today: Why I love paying tax.
Every time I write out a gigantic cheque to the Inland Revenue, I get a bit excited. Woooo! I go. What a seriously grown-up thing to be doing! It’s like drinking whisky, buying an engagement ring or chopping down a tree. In a world where nearly other signifier of adulthood — fighting Vikings, dying during childbirth, growing a beard, nurturing your own yeast-culture, having a leg ripped off in an horrific agricultural accident — has been replaced with an unending childhood of telly, jogging bottoms and strawberry-flavoured medicine, writing a bracingly large cheque is pretty much the only adult duty we have left. On this basis alone, I find it exhilarating. I kind of want it to hurt a bit. I feel like The Joker facing down Batman: “Come on — stick National Insurance on top of it! I can handle it! VAT me! VAT ME!”

Friday, October 09, 2009

Boogles bookkeeping brilliant rewrite of song: Hero

Lisa Newton of Boogles Ltd has a unique approach to promoting her bookkeeping business.
Fab singing and graphics too.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Tall Traveller Tax

A campaign has been started against what has been dubbed BA's Tall Traveller Tax.

Introduced yesterday this is a £50 per flight surcharge for passengers who book the emergency exit seats. Although the surcharge applies to all passengers these seats are most commonly booked by tall travellers. This is because the emergency exit seats are the only places in economy class that tall people can fit without suffering great discomfort (and probable increased risk of DVT).

So says Alan Stevens who is over 6ft tall and the man behind the campaign. He hopes that other tall people will be standing up for their rights too. Sounds like a job for the Tall Persons Club.

For the record my son is well over six foot so I do sympathise with Alan.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Longer new year's eve parties thanks to VAT rate change

Spare a thought for the pubs and clubs that will remain open beyond midnight on 31 December when the VAT rate reverts to 17.5%.

Will it be necessary to issue two VAT invoices? One charging VAT at 15% for goods and services provided before midnight and another at 17.5% for those provided later into the night after the rate changes? Can you imagine the mayhem - and the unwelcome sight of barmen running around trying to issue valid VAT invoices mid-party?

It seems that the Government wants to avoid spoiling parties in this way as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury announced in May that:

"HMRC will allow a few hours’ trading grace in which [pubs and clubs] may continue charging the 15 per cent. rate for a session that goes into the early hours of 1 January."

So expect some parties to continue well into the morning of New Year's day. If you attend one, do sing a vote of thanks to the Government for giving you an excuse to party longer.

And what chance the necessary VAT rate changes will be made correctly later when everyone's suffering from their hangovers? Ok, maybe it won't be so much fun after all.

My thanks to Mike Thexton for drawing this to my attention.

I wrote a more serious piece about the VAT nightmare before Xmas, that is now looming, shortly after the VAT rate changes were announced.

Monday, October 05, 2009

P45 kills off ex employee

A report in the Bournemouth Echo today is titled: Reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated!

Apparently HMRC wrote to 25yr old chef, Charles Westney, offering condolences for his own death.

Attempting to check the tax position for the “estate of the late Cecil Charles Westney”, the correspondence came as something of a shock to the chef.

“I can feel a pulse so I’m very much alive!” said Charles, whose middle name is Cecil.

When he queried the letter with HMRC they told him the blame appeared to lie with a previous employer, who they said had filled out his last P45 incorrectly. (One assumes that HMRC wasn't just referring to the sequence of his first and middle names!)

- Is it also possible that this mistake is related to a different error noted recently on this blog: HMRC's computers – an unfortunate conjunction of death and taxes?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Calculating your tax in 1930

A man offered his simple formula for income tax.
Dependents: one blonde wife, a sedan car, three goldfish and two children.
Multiply grandfather's age by 6 7/8, subtracting your telephone number.
Add hat size and subtract license plate number.

With these preliminaries done, the rest is easy.

Deducting $1,000 for keeping wife a blonde the whole year, divide the remainder by number of lodges belonged to, multiply by number of electric lights in house, and divide by collar size, giving gross income, which, after dividing by chest measurement and subtracting blood pressure, leaves net amount owed to government.

According to News from 1930 - the above appeared in the Wall Street Journal Friday September 26th 1930.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

HMRC's computers – an unfortunate conjunction of death and taxes?

Following a software update, HMRC's records show a number of their "customers" as being deceased.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, these reports of death are greatly exaggerated.

It is almost beyond a cliché to refer to the quote that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life but it would be worrying if HMRC were to assume responsibility for both. Unfortunately, HMRC are unlikely to accept that being officially recorded as dead removes the obligation to pay taxes and, in any case, there would then be inheritance tax to worry about.

Copied from Baker Tilly's weekly tax brief 23 Sept 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

What else can a man's razor do?

Radio 4's That Mitchell and Webb Sound recently featured a sketch about a typically overblown razor ad for the Accelerator 12-Blade:

'The first blade shaves you close.

'The second blade shaves you closer still.

'The third blade sets up your internet banking.

'The fourth blade shaves you closer still.

'The fifth blade does your VAT receipts and puts them in an office file, not a shoebox.

'The sixth blade...'

My thanks to Daniel at Taxation magazine for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, September 18, 2009

How NOT to describe an accountant

A business coach was looking for an alliterative approach to use when targeting accountants. The following positive adjectives were all identified as possible aspirations but rejected at least partly for having the potential to be misunderstood in the context of accountants:
Absurd, Adequate, Adventurous, Agile, Amorous, Aphrodisiac, Approachable, Appropriate, Arousing, Arresting, Assisting, Astonishing, Astounding, Attentive, Attractive, Audacious, Auspicious, Authoritative, Autonomous, Available, Awe-inspiring.
Any more?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fun tweets about accountants

I've been posting the occasional list of fun tax tweets I've picked up on twitter. This time I'm sharing tweets about accountants that made me smile.

My accountant told me to put money into LAND.... so I dug a hole and put it in the garden...

We're taking a cab up to Cambridge, our cabbie is a former accountant (with his own Blackberry!). Man, the recession is worse than I thought

Mother is discussing invoicing with me (she's an accountant). Hope she doesn't plan on submitting one for my first 18 years.

My (just turned) 2yo just counted to ten! He might be an accountant like his uncle.

If all the economists in the world were laid end to end they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. -accountant father in law

Sorry about this one... A tongue tried to hire an accountant. The accountant said no. There's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Queen's tax planning is quite basic

According to this Spitting Image sketch, the Queen's new accountants are the Marx Brothers, masquerading as: Bogus, Bogus & Fiddle.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Barrister, the accountant and the pig farmer

This 7 and a half minute video covers the explanation of a 'perfect crime' - a tax fraud perpetrated by Roger Stannard - a specialist tax barrister, an accountant and a pig farmer. A successful prosecution ensued.

It's not really funny - other than that a supposedly reputable barrister who specialised in advising on tax avoidance schemes over stepped the mark. The title of this piece comes from one of the early statements by the voice-over on the video.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Board of Inland Revenue v Haddock - The Negotiable Cow

This was a ficticious case written by the humourist A. P. Herbert for Punch magazine as part of his series of Misleading Cases in the Common Law.

The case involved a Mr. Albert Haddock, who had been in profound disagreement with the Collector of Taxes in relation to the size of his tax bill.

Eventually Mr. Haddock appeared at the offices of the Collector of Taxes, and delivered to him a large white cow "of malevolent aspect". On the cow was stencilled in red ink:

To the London and Literary Bank, Limited
Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty seven pounds £57/0/0 (and may he rot!)

Mr. Haddock tendered the cow to the Collector in payment of his tax bill and promptly demanded a receipt.

During the "hearing", the fictitious judge, Sir Basil String, enquired whether stamp duty had been paid on the negotiable instrument. The fictitious prosecutor, Sir Joshua Hoot KC confirmed that a two-penny stamp was affixed to the dexter horn of the cow.

The Collector declined the cow, and had objected that it would be impossible to pay the cow into a bank account. Perhaps unhelpfully, Mr Haddock suggested that the Collector could endorse the cow to any third party to whom the Collector might owe money, adding that "there must be many persons in that position".

A full and entertaining summary of the case can be found on Wikipedia

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Robert Morley had problems with the taxman

"Like most actors I have been in continuous dispute, if that is the phrase, with Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inland Revenue ever since she came to the throne. Before that I had the same trouble with her father's and with his father's come to that. But I don't wish to dwell on the subject."

- Robert Morley in his book 'Responsible Gentleman' (according to Peter Vaines and Roger Nuttall in their book "The Bottom Line")

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Taxation episode (The Smokescreen) from "Yes Prime Minister"

In January 1986 the political comedy " Yes Prime Minister" featured an episode "The Smokescreen" in which The Prime Minister, Jim Hacker, favours abolishing smoking through heavy taxation but he runs into strong opposition from the tobacco lobby and the Treasury department.

The following exchange between the PM and his permanent secretary seemed especially worthy of inclusion on this blog:

Sir Humphrey: Taxation isn't about what you need.
Jim Hacker: Oh, what is it about?
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, the Treasury doesn't work out what they need to spend and then think how to raise the money.
Jim Hacker: What does it do?
Sir Humphrey: They pitch for as much as they think they can get away with and then think what to spend it on.

I've attached also an extract from the start of the same episode where Sir Humphrey explains his view as to how all new Prime Ministers want to cut either taxes or public expenditure.....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Something to worry about

A newly qualified chartered accountant applies for a job advertised in the Times.

He is interviewed by the owner of a small business who has built it up from scratch.

"I need a qualified accountant," says the man, "but mainly I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me."

"How do you mean?" says the accountant.

"I have lots of things to worry about, but I want someone else to worry about money

"OK," says the accountant. "How much are you offering?"

"You can start on fifty thousand," says the owner.

"Fifty thousand pounds?" exclaims the accountant, "How can a business like this afford
to pay so much?"

"That," says the man, "is your first worry."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chartered Accountants’ Lane

A street in India’s capital Delhi has been named Chartered Accountants’ Lane to recognise the area is home to a majority of the city’s chartered accountancy students and the offices of around 5,000 qualified accountants.

The move has not been universally welcomed however, even though the street had no name in the past. Lata Gupta, the local municipal councillor, had no prior warning of the move.

The sign bearing the name of the street also displays the name of some senior local chartered accountants. This has also annoyed the councillor.

‘Roads should be named after great leaders,’ she said, adding that could include a senior economist or even a chartered accountant.

With due credit to Accountancy Age for their report of the story.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Three partners in an accounting firm go out to lunch

Three partners in an accounting firm go out to lunch. They are the audit partner, the tax partner and the senior partner.

One of them sees a brass lamp lying in the gutter. Curious, they pick it up and give it a rub.

Instantly, a genie appears."You know the deal," says the genie. "Three wishes. But seeing there are three of you, you can have just one wish each."

"Great," says the audit partner. "Take me to the Caribean, give me a blonde and an endless supply of beer and leave me there for ever."

Pouf! There is a flash of light, a puff of smoke and he is gone.

"Now me," says the tax partner. "Take me to Panama, give me two blondes and an endless supply of offshore tax schemes and leave me there for ever."

Pouf! There is a flash of light, a puff of smoke and he is gone.

The genie turns to the senior partner. "And what do you want?"

"I want those two back in the office straight after lunch."

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Who was the first accountant?

Who was the first accountant?

Adam. He got interested in figures, turned the first leaf, made the first entry, lost interest after withdrawal, buggered up the monthly accounts and raised the first liability.

Friday, July 31, 2009

It's all in a name - Will Ledger

You often hear stories about appropriately named officials in public sector bodies. But accountants? Here's the winning entry in a recent competition run by AccountancyAge. It was provided by Mike Broadway:

'I was articled to W D Menzies & Co [now Menzies] in the early 60's and one of the partners was a Mr William Ledger.

All articled clerks had to take a turn on the switchboard and it was amusing to hear clients asking to speak to "Mr Ledger, the accountant" as if it was a game of Happy Families.

'Our amusement didn't end there, as we also imagined the young William doing National Service as Private Ledger before taking a commission to become, eventually, General Ledger.

'Bill, as he was known, but not to his face, had in fact served in the Marines, making him "Sails" Ledger.

We finally planned a post-military career for Bill as the warden of a bird sanctuary - wait for it - "Perches" Ledger.

Have you ever encountered any other appropriately named accountants?

With thanks and due credit to AccountancyAge,
Taking Stock blog

Monday, July 27, 2009

A tax on toilet paper?

Only in America?!
The Water Protection and Reinvestment Act, includes provisions for what has been reported to be the Toilet Paper Tax.

It's not law yet - Representative Earl Blumenauer introduced the Bill that proposes this tax on July 15. According to his website the Bill:
“establishes a $10 billion annual fund for repairing America’s corroded pipes and overburdened sewer systems, which pose serious health, environmental, and security consequences.”
A fact sheet points out that part of this $10 billion will come from a “3% excise tax on items disposed of in wastewater, such as toothpaste, cosmetics, toilet paper and cooking oil.”

With thanks and due credit to Walter S. Bristow III, JD, CLU, ChFC who posted this story on his blog: Walt's Musings

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Neil has plenty to smile about

I met Neil Warren at the ICAEW Wyman debate last week and complimented him on his beaming smile. He explained that he has plenty to smile about as he supports Manchester United, Sussex County Cricket Club and he talks about VAT.

Somehow I doubt there are any other football and cricket fans who share that last passion.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A woman walks into an accountant's office.....

A woman walks into an accountant's office and tells him that she needs to file her taxes.

The accountant says, "Before we begin, I'll need to ask you a few questions." He gets her name, address, social security number, etc. and then asks, "What is your occupation?"

"I'm a whore," she says.

The accountant is somewhat taken aback and says, "No, No, No, that won't work. Let's try to rephrase that."

The woman says, "OK, I'm a high-end call girl."

"No, that still won't work. Try again."

They both think for a moment and the woman says, "I'm an elite chicken farmer."

The accountant asks, "What does chicken farming have to do with being a prostitute?"

"Well, I raised a thousand little peckers last year."

"Chicken Farmer it is."

Picked up on website: wicked thoughts (through Google Alerts)

Monday, July 20, 2009

What do you call HMRC?

The joint body formally known as Inland Revenue and HM Customs & Excise has been with us now for over 4 years following the merger in April 2005.

I heard recently that some refer to it as:

HM Mars C - emphasising that negotiations can be warlike (Mars being the Greek god of war)

HM Arsy - an equally negative sounding approach.

Any more?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tax rises and the Hissing Index

Last night's Wyman debate arranged by the ICAEW Tax Faculty was conducted in very good humour. The motion was "Assuming taxes rise which goose should be plucked first?"

One of the speakers, Trevor Evans (Ex-Director Business tax HMRC), focused on what he called the Hissing Index ("HI") which he suggested was much used in the corridors of power - Treasury and HMRC. This sounded, as intended I suspect, more like something that could have been derived from the days of 'Yes Minister'.

According to Trevor: HI is derived from the formula:
V x X x AF
V = Volume of hissing per goose (ie: how much of a fuss is made by those required to pay additional taxes)
X = Number of geese being plucked (ie: how big is the group of geese that will be subject to additional taxes)
AF = Amplification Factor (This being a factor of the number of connections that a goose or gaggle of geese have eg: in the press, media, on TV news - or simply through being on first name terms with a Treasury Minister!).

Trevor then proceeded to identify which propositions had a High HI and encouraged the audience to vote for his proposition which, he claimed, would have a low HI.

(Maybe you had to be there!)

* The title was derived from a famous Jean Baptise Colbert quote.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

HMRC and the paperless office

Whilst many people aspire to move towards the 'paperless office' I heard reports recently of HMRC's approach.

It became apparent when they told an accountant that they had lost a client's papers. Indeed they admitted that
"We have no idea where a physical copy of the correspondence is."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Finance Bill of Fare

The menu for a recent banquet, at London's Mansion House, for tax practitioners was described as a Finance Bill of Fare. It included:
  • Warm sea trout (a fishy back duty case)
  • Supreme of guinea fowl (always charge in guineas)
The Lord Mayor also joked about a jaffa cake desert - is it a cake or a biscuit?

Accountancy magazine - to whom I must credit the story - suggest also that the background music was played on original statutory instruments and that the repertoire included pieces from Carousel (no fraud here).

Maybe you had to be there. If you were and you can fill in the menu gaps, please let me know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dr Who - Doddy and the RevenueMen

Just found this spoof video - created by dubbing the first few minutes of a 1980's episode of Dr Who (Sylvester McCoy) - when Bonnie Langford was his companion.

The Dr and his companion land the Tardis to find their client (Ken Dodd) needs their help to escape the dreaded Inland Revenue.

You'll have to watch it on YouTube as embedding has been disabled.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

MPs' second homes and their DOSH

Following all the pieces I've written about the tax aspects of MPs' expenses on the Tax Buzz blog this item rightly appears here instead.

It's an idea I saw mentioned in a letter to Taxtion magazine from a Mike Holland.

He suggests there should be a further extension of the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes regime. This would require disclosures from MPs who nominate a series or succession of properties as second homes.

Mike suggests that an appropriate title for the legislation would be the Disclosure of Second Homes - DoSH!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Why Tony Blackburn uses an accountant

I let my accountant do my tax returns because it saves time...
........sometimes as much as ten years.

Tweeted by @TonyBlackburn on 6 July.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The art of taxation - plucking geese

It was in the 17th century that Jean-Baptiste Colbert (who was French Finance Minister under King Louis XIV of France) originated the suggestion that
"the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing".
I noted recently that John Whiting says:
"It's very important the corollary is that the goose deserves a say in which feathers are taken and how."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Daft names for accounting roles

  • Bookkeeper = Ledger Completion Manager
  • Payroll clerk = Government Deduction Compliance Assistant
  • Financial manager = Future Spend Calculation Manager
  • Filing Tax Returns = Statutory Revenue Completion and Filing Contractor
  • Office clerk = Photocopy Facilitator
  • Tax adviser = Revenue detraction monitor
  • Receptionist = Client Hospitality Manager
  • Audit manager = Figurative bullshit researcher
  • Accountant (in a firm) = Client Service Manager
Thanks and credit to Andy Tomlin of AT Accounting who tweeted most of these recently

Any more?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Name changes that follow the economic cycle

How many names can you recall for what used to be called the insolvency department of an accountancy firm?

Tradition demands that the department be renamed every few years to highlight the main focus of their work. The name changes seem to follow the economic cycle. Have I missed any out?
  • Insolvency
  • Business recovery
  • Business restructuring
  • Corporate recovery
  • Corporate restructuring
  • Recovery, Reorganisations and Renewals
  • Restructuring and Insolvency
Renaming .a department is generally relatively straightforward. However, the specialist organisations tend to get stuck with their original names (so far as I can tell):

R3 (apparently a ref to: Recovery, Reorganisations and Renewals) currently focuses on the insolvency and business recovery profession and is described as the Association of Business Recovery professionals.

(Suggesting an intial focus on Insolvency) is the International Association of Restructuring, Insolvency & Bankruptcy Professionals.

Further suggestions, observations welcome.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Income tax cocktail

I read about this on AccountingWeb recently and then checked it out on Google. It's a variation of the classic Martini with orange juice and Angostura bitters added.

2 oz gin
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz dry vermouth
1 oz orange juice
Angostura bitters to taste
Orange twist for garnish

Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Superman vs Taxman

Back in 1961 a Superman comic story (#148) was based around how the IRS (US Internal Revenue Service) pursued the Man of Steel for unpaid taxes.

A junior investigator noted that there was no record of Superman ever paying tax. And what with all the reward money he earned for capturing criminals plus all the diamonds he made from coal...

Evidently there was a lot of tax at stake. $1 billion (remember this was 1961). Superman's first defence was that he gave away all his 'earnings'. But the IRS noted that many millionaires give substantial sums to charity. This does not absolve them from a a liability to tax.

Superman spends the rest of the story frantically scrambling for extra cash, only to lose his instant riches through a series of endearingly goofy Silver Age plot twists, such as Bizarro showing up and transforming a collection of priceless ivory into Ivory Soap! At one point, Superman even hits up Aquaman to find him a giant clam containing an equally giant pearl.

Despite the setbacks, Superman managed to collect an impressive cache of rare treasures, only to see them devoured by a matter-eating space monster! This lead to a rare display of temper from the normally even-keeled the pressure to meet his taxation deadline caused him to hurl the source of his anxiety into outer space.

Happily, after returning to the IRS, Superman is informed that he's off the hook for the billion-dollar tax bill...though the reasoning behind the clever last-minute reprieve is a bit of a stretch... (Only in America!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Accountants can't count (take 2)

A convention to prove that accountants can count is set up in a massive stadium.

Accountants from all over the world watch as the MC calls up the first volunteer and asks him, ‘What is 15 plus 15?’

After 20 seconds the volunteer says, ‘Eighteen'

Everyone is a little disappointed and the accountants all round the stadium start yelling. ‘Give him another chance! Give him another chance!’

The MC says, ‘Well I guess we can give him another chance. What is five plus five?’

After 30 seconds the volunteer says, ‘Ninety?’ Everyone is crestfallen but the accountants again start yelling, ‘Give him another chance! Give him another chance!’

The MC says, ‘Okay! One last chance. What is two plus two?’

The accountant closes his eyes and after a whole minute eventually says ‘Four.’

The accountants start yelling. ‘Give him another chance! Give him another chance!’

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dave Hartnett thinks accountants can't count - and it's my fault

I'd better come clean.

At the ICAEW Tax Faculty AGM yesterday the pre-lunch guest speaker was Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax. During his opening few words he explained how much he enjoys being in the Institute's Great Hall as he always remembers what happened when he was opposing the motion at the Wyman Debate in 2003.

I was Chairman of the Faculty at the time and therefore chaired the event. The motion under debate was:
This House believes that tax is not a moral issue – it’s purely a matter of law
With help from Tax Faculty staff we took a show of hands at the start and then again at the end to assess whether the debate had impacted the views of those present.

If memory serves the majority of hands at the outset supported the motion. By the end of the debate however there had been a shift and I think I called it a draw. Dave was convinced that a majority now opposed the motion. Thus his view that I (and therefore other accountants) can't count. Six years down the line and he still won't let me forget it ;-(

I apologise and would simply note that at least I'm no longer in practice!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Beware the Mae West letter from the taxman

It's the one that suggests you should
Come up and see me some time.
And if you don't play ball it's often followed by the Judus letter:
This is nothing to do with me any more.
That's after the inspector has passed matters onto a more high powered branch of HMRC

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Telegraph letters page - the tax side of MPs' expenses

The MPs' expenses scandal is no laughing matter. I have written a number of pieces about the tax issues on the TaxBuzz blog.

But this blog is a place for laughs so here is a selection of some of the more amusing letters taken from The Telegraph's letter pages:

Cabinet members may not know how to complete a self-assessment tax form but they certainly know how to complete an expenses claim
- Pat Lamb, Exeter

Alistair Darling needs an accountant to ensure he pays the correct tax. Doesn't he know HMRC will do the calculation free of charge if the form is submitted by October 31?
- Dr Malclom Parsloe, Battle, East Sussex

John Wick, the whistleblower, should henceforth be known as 'Deep Moat'
- Robert Humm, Stamford. Lincolnshire

The word 'professional' claimed by some politicians is, after all, only a synonym for 'mercenary'
- Rev Philip Foster. Hemmingford Abbots, Cambridgeshire

If Alistair Darling and his colleagues are unable to complete their tax returns without employing professional help, then either the tax returns are too complicated or Cabinet members are too simple.
- Trevor Mudd, Addlestone, Surrey

If Mr Darling did his own tax return he might appreciate what a shambolic system he presides over.
- Stuart Derwent, Brighton, East Sussex

How is it that Mr Darling, whose income must be twice mine, only pays his accountant half what I have to?
- A R Fontes, Wrexham, Clwyd

Having learned that they employ accountants to help them complete their tax returns, I suppose the next thing we shall learn is that Cabinet ministers claim back their tax bill on expenses. Or haven't they thought of that wheeze?
- Roger Hoare, Salisbury, Wiltshire

When the bin tax is introduced will MPs be able to claim it on expenses too?
- David Monk, Rainford, Merseyside

Some years ago I had a bumper stick on my car which read "Don't steal - the Government hates competition". Was I before my time?
- Andy Hawkins, Brie-sous-Mortagne, France

I note that MPs caught out in the investigation of their allowances, and who will be spending more time with their families following the next election, will be eligible for £37,281 as a "winding up allowance". Is this a pun?
- Ruth Rees, Cowbridge, South Glamorgan

I hope the man advising so many ministers on tax has liability insurance.
- Mac Fearnehough, Dronfield, Derbyshire

Surely, it is a historic moment when the taxman becomes more popular than the politician.
- Juliet Henderson, South Warnborough, Hampshire

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

That naughty Emily Maitlis....

Emily was the guest presenter at last week's Taxation awards ceremony at the London Hilton on Park Lane.

She explained that earlier in the day she had been sitting in her room running through her script and practicing (good move). When room service arrived she had been repeating all of the award titles and was embarrassed to realise that some sounded as though she wasn't saying 'tax', but 'sex'.

Her timing was perfect later as she paused momentarily when announcing certain awards. Some of the best were:
  • Best international team = Best international sex team
  • Best general team = Best general sex team
  • Best in house team = Best in house sex team
  • Best investigations team = Best sex investigations team
  • Best 'big four' team = Best Big four sex team
And the two others where she made some other relevant comment put us in mind of
  • Sex writer of the year and
  • Sex personality of the year
This twist gave all 600 or so attendees a unique perspective on the awards!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Death and Taxes

Most people (in the UK anyway) who hear these two words together think of Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) who is usually credited with saying:
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
This was apparently written in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789, which was re-printed in The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 1817.

Before that however Daniel Defoe used a similar phrase in The Political History of the Devil, 1726:
"Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed."
And much more recently Margaret Mitchell says the following in her book Gone With the Wind, 1936:
"Death, taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beatles' Taxpayer - reworked to cover MP expenses

Written and performed by Ayd Instone
Click his name to hear him perform this in the style of the Beatles.

Let me tell you how it will be
With expenses claims on what seems right to me

Paid by the taxpayer! Yeah by the taxpayer!

I'll furnish my second home for free
Cos after all I'm your MP

And you're the taxpayer! Yeah you're the taxpayer

If I have a castle you'll pay for my moat
If I fancy sailing you'll pay for my boat
If you question me I'll sit and gloat
I'll claim every penny, every shilling and groat

From you the taxpayer!

Don't ask me if it's within the rules (Ah ah Mr Cameron)
For years we've treated you all as fools (Ah ah Mr Brown)
And you're the taxpayer!Yeah you're the taxpayer!

My advice to those who moan
Repay the mortgage on my non-existent loan

And you're the taxpayer! Yeah you're the taxpayer!
And you're working for no-one but me

(I think George would have appreciated the sentiment)

With due credit and thanks to Ayd Instone for permission to post this here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tax planning and human interest

A tax adviser confided in me recently that one reason she enjoyed her work was the human interest side of things. By way of example she told me of the new client who explained his existing trust structure. It had been set up for his future illegitimate children.

Apparently he considered it likely that at some stage in the future he would father children who would be illegitimate and he considered tax planning for this eventuality to be a priority!

What's the strangest form of tax planning you've ever considered?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The inadequacy of MPs approach to sorting it all out

Ok - I know MPs and their expenses aren't directly 'accountancy' related but there are connections.
And of my 3 blogs this was the only one on which I could even vaguely justify posting this insightful comment by Mark Thomas in the Guardian:
When benefit cheats get caught working and signing on, they get punished. They don't form a committee made up of other benefit claimants to debate how they might make new rules to prevent themselves from doing it again. They certainly don't appear on BBC News barking that "they work extremely hard and made a simple mistake."

Nor can an exposed tax dodger offer to pay back money because they are "concerned about how it looks to the outside world", and then walk away with no repercussion.

HMRC's new slogan revealed

Maybe it should be the subtitle of the new HMRC Taxpayer's Charter?

It's just a suggestion I spotted recently and noted that it's appeared in various places. Seemed a worthy contender for inclusion on this blog.

How would you feel if HMRC adopted this then?
"We've got what it takes to take what you've got"

(The draft Charter already states that they intend to "relentlessly pursue those who bend or break the rules". I've already shared my views about this on the Tax Buzz blog in a piece titled: How far can you bend the rules?)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Were the Owl and the Pussycat trying to evade taxes?

A simple analysis suggests that this Edward Lear poem is all about tax avoidance.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea [going offshore obviously]
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money, [evidently cash]
Wrapped up in a five pound note. [money laundering perhaps?]

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows [obviously a tax haven]

The big clue is in that penultimate line. Leaving the UK for a year and a day is the minimum period of absence required to ensure that they secured non-resident status under the rules then in place.

The above analysis was offered by Andrew Hubbard, newly installed President of CIOT, after the Chartered Tax Advisers' address last night on the anniversary of Edward Lear's birthday.

Friday, May 08, 2009

What does BN stand for?

On Budget Night last month 93 BN's were issued by HMRC. It seems that most people assume that the BN annotation probably stands for 'Budget Note'. But are there more descriptive explanations?

Suggestions to date include:
  • BaNal article
  • Boring Note
  • Barmy Notice
  • Bloody Nuisance
If you have better suggestions please add them as comments on this post.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Accountants enjoy more sex than other workers

This is one of the highlights from a survey published a few years back. I came across it again recently and thought it worthy of recording on this blog for posterity.

The image of the dull, grey accountant was shattered by a survey in 2002 that claimed to have evidence that they are more interesting and adventurous than other people.

According to the Daily Telegraph's report, Accountants are more likely to socialise, they watch less television and enjoy more sex. This was the conclusion of a "monotony monitor" aimed at exposing those whose life was more rut race than rat race. Apparently accountants watched less than an hour's television in two weeks. They had sex an average of six times in a fortnight, compared with the average three, and most played some kind of sport.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tax tweets that raise a smile

Seems such a waste not to record these for posterity:

I once got a letter from the Inland Revenue asking me what my address was

called the inland revenue, 10 minutes of recorded announcements how I shouldn't call them because they have a website

Having to speak to Inland Revenue today.... I will be washing my mouth out with tepid salt water immediately afterwards to avoid infection.

Just cost Revenue & Customs £45k by signing 600 Inland Revenue cheques for clients in time to get their £75 incentive. Satisfying work.

Inland Revenue - stop telling me to go to your website, I went there, it sucked and didn't tell me anything I needed to know, answer my call!

cold sweat. If one just gives ALL income straight to the Inland revenue when getting payed maybe then we'll be off the hook

Wondering when, sweet lord, just when will the UK's inland revenue stop asking me for a tax return? Been gone from the UK for years now...

I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that HMRC routinely ignore letters, fail to log calls etc. So I'm going to ignore them.

If you're curious about twitter - here's my take.

Friday, May 01, 2009

International Hug week - Hug your accountant

Not sure I should admit to what follows. Like most people I guess I was unaware of International hug week - which starts today 1 May 2009. Then my PR lady drafted a press release for a seminar I'm running later in the month for non-accountants. The headline is:
Hug your Accountant and see your business soar

Perhaps giving your Accountant a hug during 'International Hug Week' may not be the best way to gain business referrals, but the return of a popular business seminar could show you exactly how to build successful relationships with local accountants that could generate literally hundreds of referrals.
My PR lady tells me that International Hug Week was started in Burnley, England by Debra Brown in 2008. The London Evening Standard is amongst those that have recognised it this year.

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