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.

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

Latest news from 'my mate down the pub'

Conversation with a client... Me: "You've made a taxable profit for the year of £25,000. This means a corporation tax liability ...