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 Superman...as 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

The journalist, the engineer, the lawyer and the accountant

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