Friday, December 28, 2012

A non-boring email disclaimer from an accountant

Picked up from a thread on AccountingWeb:
"The information in this document and any attached files is top secret and confusing and may also be very posh. It is intended solely for and should be read only by you (the recipient). In the event that you do not get this message please notify the sender by return. Help I'm being held prisoner by the Institute of Family Planning Accountants, they keep me in a Linux office and subject me to double entry all day without any roll over relief, please help! If however the contents of this email make no sense whatsoever then you probably were not the intended recipient and you should immediately delete yourself, and not disclose, copy, distribute, or retain any life or any part of it."
Originator = anonymous ("mouse007")

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Santa an immoral tax avoider?

I am indebted to that satirical and very funny tax sage, Murphy Richards, of the Justice for Taxes Network for inspiring this festive blog post. He has noted the following in his tweets:
Being mythical puts Santa outside the scope of UK taxes. It may be legal but it is immoral and therefore it is illegal and Father Christmas is a tax evader. 
This lead others to comment:
@BrownsAccounts: Hodge #PAC questions Father Xmas re #tax #avoidance, deliberately creating losses by giving things away 

@jmalitrg Being Laplander and non-dom and spending so little time in UK chimneys he has no perm establishment so he is ok 

@jmalitrg:  A General Anti Abuse of Rudolf (GAAR) provision will catch him.....

The front cover of Private Eye's Christmas edition follows a similar theme. Maybe it inspired Murphy Richards. It shows Santa flying across the sky in his sledge with the now ubiquitous ill-informed illogical commentators saying what they think:

Private Eye's message: 
"Happy Taxmas and a Dodgy New Year"
Santa's based offshore 
He only spends a day a year in Britain...
...and he doesn't pay the Treasury a penny 
Booooo! We hate Santa

Monday, December 17, 2012

If Santa suffered an audit.....

ParenteBeard, a top 25 U.S. accounting firm, is helping to balance the books of what would be the largest non-profit in the world: Santa, Inc. The following notes are extracted from the related Press Release which goes into far more detail.  They have been described as 'Reckless Santanomics on CNN (see video below).

While Santa’s magical powers eliminate many of the typical business fundamentals such as production and employee costs, ParenteBeard analysed what it would take to actually operate Santa’s North Pole. They determined that it would cost 42.3 billion dollars to operate Santa, Inc. annually.

ParenteBeard's analysis includes detailed consideration of the following categories of expense and how the figures below have been computed:
  • Gift Production: $39.5 billion (assuming the av value of Santa's gifts per child =  $75)
  • Employee Costs: $2.77 billion (incl: Elve's Salaries: $2 billion and Health Benefits: $773 million) 
  • Electricity Costs: $98 million 
  • Reindeer Costs: $54,000
It's a long time since I was in practice but it strikes me that ParentBoard's Santanomics are flawed.

I'm prepared to accept that they can ignore any property related costs other than electricity on the assumption that Santa.Inc owns the workshop and that no impairment costs arise due to specific local weather conditions. But there is still the cost of a new red suit each year - with all the travelling he does it's unlikely his suit would last indefinitely. And, I'm no expert but I suspect the reindeer costs are too low. The CNN santanomics expert agrees....

Friday, December 14, 2012

And the INABA award this week goes to...a goth accountant

This is the first in what I hope will be regular (virtual) awards ‘presented’ to accountants who operate in such a way as to confirm my contention that ‘Boring Is Optional’.. . More on the awards here:

J. ‘Psyche’ Coderre MAAT, is a 20-year veteran of the goth/alternative scene. She created her website, Death and Taxes in 2009. When she says she's focused on keeping clients in the 'black' she means it literally! Not only is her website different. She is obviously deserving of an INABA (it stands for 'I'm Not A Boring Accountant').

Psyche (sy-kee) tells me that:
Most alternative types, as they progress through life, are faced with a choice: Change your appearance, or accept that your career choices may be somewhat limited. Many of us fear experiencing the fate of Richmond from "The IT Crowd", whose adoption of goth fashion saw him banished to the office basement. However, I quite like my hair purple.
When I completed my AAT qualification in 2009, I wasn't looking forward to removing my piercings, dyeing my hair a normal colour, suiting up and joining a City firm. The option of going into practice -- where, as the boss, I could set my own dress code -- seemed far more appealing. As did the prospect of working with other alternative types like myself, who were running their own micro-businesses and seeking to earn a living outside of the corporate culture. 
Death and Taxes was the obvious name for a goth accountancy firm. The logo of the Grim Reaper with a calculator immediately suggested itself, and I commissioned the design from an artist who had previously created flyers for the club night I used to run in Washington, D.C. 
I wasn't sure how well it would go over; whether, in spite of the humorous branding, I'd be seen as someone people would want to bring business to. But due to the nature of accountancy selling itself mainly through word-of-mouth, this wasn't an issue I experienced. And word-of-mouth travels very well within the close-knit alternative scene. 
Once word got around that "one of us" was offering accountancy services, people from across the scene started contacting me. 
It's not just goths who have responded well to Death and Taxes. I'm often greeted by "I love that name!" when ringing HMRC with a query. 
People don't expect a stereotypically "dull" accountant to have a sense of humour. 
It's also aided my practice by making it memorable. It's easy to forget whether the accountants your friend recommended six months ago were Smith and Jones Accountants or Jones and Smith Accountants, but everyone remembers Death and Taxes! 
Another advantage is that when meeting a client for the first time, I am very easy to spot. 
I'm also probably one of the very few accountancy firms to be selling its own branded merchandise. 
I love watching new people I meet do double takes when they ask what I do, and I tell them I'm an accountant. I love subverting the "boring accountant" stereotype!
If you know someone who may qualify for an INABA, please check the (very simple) criteria here and then let me know via my website:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

We all love accounting - #BoringIsOptional

The chorus goes:
"We all love accounting - it's the reason we come to school, dear old accounting, there's nothing else quite as cool"

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

ScoobyDoo at work for KPMG (allegedly)

The photo below appears on the GoingConcern blog.  It is accompanied by a series of comments purporting to evidence that the guy wearing the costume works for KPMG in the US and was allowed to dress up for Halloween this year.
The 'evidence' includes:
1. The laptop is clearly some PC jalopy that a public accounting firm would issue to an auditor.
2. The enormous USB capable 10-key calculator is something an auditor would schlep around.
3. Crude, soulless conference room is one where clients would obviously stick an auditor.
4. The black pen at the bottom of the screen is standard issue for Big 4 firms.
5. The little colored flags on papers to Scoob's right are a favorite of many auditors.
6. Scooby has a KPMG standard "T&E" envelope in front of his laptop.
7. That cardboard box is how KPMG employees receive their business cards.
8. Judging by the T&E envelope, laptop, and 10-key, this definitely is a KPMG person.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Full of beans

I was taken by this letter in the paper earlier in the year. sent by Gareth Tarr of Chertsey:
Sir, as a chartered accountant I must say that the scandal regarding tax avoidance schemes is a rare case of positive PR for my profession. Rather than condescendingly being labelled as dreary 'bean-counters' we are now described as clever and innovative. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Harry Potter and the Balance Sheet

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a boy called Harry Potter, whose uncle told him he was a liability. But the boy felt unwilling to accept this designation without qualification, since his parents were off-balance sheet, ie, missing.

One day, a strange visitor named Hagrid gave the boy professional advice. “This advice is provided to you without prejudice,” he said. “Your fortunes may go up or they may go down. But due diligence requires me to inform you that you are not a liability of the muggle class, but an asset of the wizard class.”

The young asset travelled to Hogwart’s School for a set of “add value” courses expected by analysts to cause a significant appreciation in his book value.

In class, Harry met a female asset called Hermione and thought about having a merger with her. But he was distracted because an outside party called Voldemort earmarked him for 100 per cent depreciation, ie, death.

A huge takeover battle followed, with Voldemort attempting a hostile acquisition followed by a total liquidation of Harry and associated assets. Harry won by using an unlisted extraordinary item called heroism.

In a huge EGM of interested parties at Hogwarts Hall, Harry found that his book value had increased considerably. However, there was no merger with Hermione. “Also, I haven’t found my parents, who are still listed as receivables,” Harry said. As a result, analysts suggested that there may be room for subsidiary or spin-off adventures.

As imagined by Nury Sam Jam Vittachi

Friday, October 12, 2012

MGO are "Proud to be boring accountants"

Boring may be Optional but MGO, a top 100 accounting firm in Sacramento, California, celebrate the fact that they (claim to be) Boring. And have been for 25 years. They explain how being Boring benefits clients, they introduce their Boring Partners and have a self proclaimed Boring Mission.

Of course in so doing they stand out as being very different and anything BUT Boring. Nice one!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

He would have been a true financial wizard

Back when I was Chairman of the ICAEW Tax Faculty I was also on Council. I well recall that during one Council conference we discussed what the Institute could do to make chartered accountancy more sexy and appealing as a career option.

One of the best suggestions I can recall was to encourage a then relatively new author, JK Rowling, to change the direction of a series of books she was writing about a boy wizard. 

We thought it would be great if we could encourage her to end the series with Harry Potter graduating from Hogwarts and going off to start a career as a chartered accountant. We thought that might inspire thousands of potential financial wizards to follow his lead.  

I haven't read the last book but It didn't happen did it? Can you imagine what would have happened...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do 'honest' criminals pay tax?

Many thanks to Tax Barrister, Keith Gordon, of Atlas Chambers who made me aware of this Little Britain radio sketch. It features David Walliams as a hitman and Matt Lucas as a cuckolded husband who is surprised to be questioned about tax matters

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Academy Award winning Accountant

Ray McKinnon and his wife Lisa Blount won an Academy Award in 2001 for their Live Action Short Film "The Accountant".

The 35 minute film tells the story of an accountant whose mathematical skills just might save the O'Dell family farm. The accountant takes the O'Dell brothers on a journey that explores the plight of America’s family farms and hidden corporate conspiracies.

Or, as the promo materials said: "Can one man, one hard drinking, chain smoking, backwoods accountant, stop a national conspiracy, change the course of history, and save a way of life? It's do-able... but it ain't gonna be purdy."

With thanks to Joseph McDonnell for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ode to tax and the Olympics

Well, it is a cycle.
It starts as a marathon and ends with a sprint.
Along the way, there will be hurdles to face, targets and sometimes you will come across pools and penalties.
Coaching/training will be provided and some courses are sponsored.
It's all hard work and grafting to get clients to send in the information early.
Sometimes you just dive in, other times you may perform mental gymnastics with some of the tax rules which may necessitate weightlifting the yellow tax handbooks.
Yesterday, I hopped on the tube to go and see a client, skipped lunch and jumped into the preparation of his return which meant creating records on my lap-top.
You may need to box clever with HMRC but be careful not to sail too close to abusive avoidance.
After five rings I give up calling HMRC.
When partner X enters the tax department you know someone's for the high jump.
Certain tax return entries disqualify filing by internet which may mean posting the return to HMRC, Olympic House, 3 Olympic Way, Wembley.
The 31 January sees the finishing line.
I hold a torch for the days when you could run along to the tax office with a signed return to submit.
Then there is the HMRC enquiry work which includes taking random samples.
You need to pass the baton to the younger generation of tax return preparers.
I hammer home to staff the firm's gold medal standard of service to clients, but that there is no silver for second best.
And finally, the taxman takes your clients' money to pay for the Kinks' Ray Davies to perform at the closing ceremony.

Penned by Citroen Wells partner Nick Brennan

Friday, September 14, 2012

Accountants as superheros

The above, posted by @RachelmSinha,  are just two examples picked up from the twitter feed for #icaewheroes - It seems they were crafted by attendees at an ICAEW sustainability conference, at Imperial College, in response to the question: What superhero skills do accountants have to save the world?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Nerd who loved me

I was intrigued by the premise of this book by Vicki Lewis Thompson:

Lainie Terrell is no ordinary single mother. With feathers in all the right places, she's one of the hottest showgirls in Vegas. Aside from a hot-tempered ex-boyfriend on her sequined tail, Lainie's biggest problem is finding a decent babysitter for her son. Lainie's dilemma is solved when she ropes Harry Ambrewster, the casino's shy-but very smart and cute-accountant, into the task.

Inheriting his chemist father's high I.Q. and sexy good looks, Harry has always been intrigued by Lainie. He isn't thrilled at the prospect of babysitting, but he'll do anything to get near the gal who fuels his craziest fantasies. Then Lainie's dangerous ex comes knocking... Their option? Run faster than a pair of net stockings.

In disguise and on the run, Lainie's masquerading as the perfect wife. Harry's doubling as the he-man protector. But with a set-up this hot, who's fooling who? When the lights go down, and the masks come off, a nerd like Harry could be just the right ignition to set a woman like Lainie on fire...

Just wish he wasn't a nerd.....

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Accountancy was my life until........

Hard to believe I've not posted this classic advert from the 1970s on this blog before now.
Another Smirnoff advert in the same series was: ‘I thought the Kama Sutra was an Indian restaurant until I discovered Smirnoff’.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cute kitten accountant photo

What do you think his/her name is?

(With due credit to @YourAAT for bringing this to my attention via twitter)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What do De Niro, Hoffman, Mr Bean and James Bond have in common with accountants?

Back in 1997 KPMG announced that they were experimenting with product placement of the firm's name in a series of films some of which were to feature the above named stars and characters. (I explained my own consequential walk-on part on Newsnight in a previous post on this blog).

I have just traced a detailed article about the experiment, published in the June/July 1997 issue of CA magazine.

Here are some of the highlights:
It's all part of a product placement plan that will see KPMG's name slotted into 18 movies destined for international release over the next couple of years.
In addition to paying for an appearance on the big screen, KPMG offers movie production companies its offices in 147 countries as locations for shooting. 
KPMG hopes that going to the movies will increase public awareness of its services, boost staff morale and present the company as a hip place to work. "It's a worldwide branding thing with a recruitment spin-off. People are attracted to you when you are in movies with James Bond, Mr Bean and Robert De Niro"

The first movie to feature KPMG will be Shooting Fish, starring Kate Beckinsale, Stuart Townsend and Dan Futterman. In the movie KPMG receives 12 seconds’ worth of promotion as a sponsor of a horse race called the KPMG Challenge Cup.  
In a romantic comedy called The Sea Change, Sean Chapman plays a handsome, dashing and funny KPMG accountant named Rupert Granger. As the lead character he will be a top financial wheeler-dealer working for a very respectable City company which happens to be KPMG. Filming includes KPMG's Salisbury Square offices in London where Rupert's office has a KPMG wall planner, mugs and several other items among the usual office paraphernalia. 
In Wag the Dog, Dustin Hoffman will hand a KPMG coffee mug to Robert De Niro.
A KPMG mug will also appear in a Mr. Bean film.  
The James Bond movie will see KPMG advertised on an airport billboard.  
Various KPMG corporate gifts will feature in The Gingerbread Man, John Grisham’s first-ever screen play, starring Kenneth Branagh and Daryl Hannah.  
KPMG is flexible about the types of films it wants to appear in — to a point. “For example, we wouldn’t place the company in the next Pulp Fiction. We’re not interested in triple-X or hard-core sex films. We also don’t want to be associated with excessive violence. But we’re living in the real world, so swearing is okay when it is in context.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Accountants make the numbers easy

This photo was submitted by Aron Kleiman as his entry in a recent competition for ICAEW Students: "What accountancy and business looks like to you".

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Matching speakers' names to their areas of exertise

Wouldn't it be good to match the subjects at tax conferences with the names of the speakers?

John Newth suggested the following in Taxation back in 2004:
  • Modern tax legislation - Tablets of Stone - Mr Justice Moses
  • A fishy business at HMRC - John Whiting 
  • SDLT and trust legislation - an attack on the public - Patrick Cannon and Malcolm Gunn 
  • The Budget - or a nursery rhyme? - Andrew Hubbard 
  • The US Presidential election and tax - Mike (Harry) Truman
I would add:
  • Do  we need a General Anti-Abuse Rule? - G. AARonson QC 
[John Newth has got in touch to offer me some more recent suggestions along the same lines. I have edited this post to include them below]

  • NIC – A likely target- by Peter Arrowsmith
  • The sanctity of the Upper Tax Tribunal by – Colin Bishopp
  • Irish Tax Justice – by Richard Murphy
  • A few drinks in the Arctic – by Fran Lagerberg
  • Things are not Black and White – by Jonathan Schwarz
  • VAT is like a rabbit – by Neil Warren
  • Tax is not ageing – by Ian Young
  • Batting for IHT reliefs- by Matthew Hutton
  • Avoiding tax potholes- by Rebecca Cave
  • The twists of tax law – by Sir Stephen Oliver QC
  • The Socialist tax Agenda – by Ed Balls
Further suggestions welcome...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Misquoting the famous re boredom and accountancy

In an effort to show how wrong are those who think accountants are boring, I've misquoted some famous people below - swapping 'accountancy' or 'accountant' as a replacement for the word boredom:
"Your true traveller finds accountancy rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty - his excessive freedom. He accepts his accountant, when he comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure."
- Aldous Huxley
And a little more worryingly, this one from Danish American actor and poet, Viggo Mortensen:
"There's no excuse to be an accountant. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there's no excuse for accountants ever." 
And, in a similar vein, this one from Dustin Hoffman:
"There's a rebirth that goes on with us continuously as human beings. I don't understand, personally, how you can be an accountant. I can understand how you can be depressed, but I just don't understand accountants."
Clearly the words are not synonymous.
Any more for any more?

Friday, August 03, 2012

An accountant learns the truth about game theory

There was an expert accountant who was well versed in game theory. He heard that his intelligent niece, who was five years old, always took a 50p piece, when a choice between a 50p piece and a pound coin was offered to her.

He went to see his niece and offered her just such a choice. She took the 50p and said
"Thank you Uncle".
The accountant tried to explain to his niece
"You must understand, a pound coin is twice as valuable as a 50p piece, so you should always choose the pound coin."
The niece replied
"Uncle, but then people will not offer me any money."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wry laughter at Dave Hartnett's expense

There was wry laughter last night at John Whiting's revelation that Dave Hartnett now has first hand experience of the complexity of the tax system as it affects those facing retirement!

Comment from the stage during the ICAEW Tax Faculty's Wyman Symposium last night

Monday, July 16, 2012

"I know my accountant isn't boring because..."

"I know my accountant isn't boring because... he isn't afraid to take his shirt off on the beach"
"I know my accountant isn't boring because... his lunch doesn't consist of the dreaded sandwich at the desk"
"I know my accountant isn't boring because... he swims/runs/cycles to raise money for good causes"
"I know my accountant isn't boring because... he's up on fraud charges......
"I know my accountant isn't boring because... he wears the most elegant frocks!"
"I know my accountant isn't boring me because... because he is boring someone else!
 - Richard Colburn

 "I know my accountant isn't boring because.....he has a ponytail & plays the guitar"
- Martin Bamford

Any more for any more?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Caitlin Moran's views on tax avoidance

The following comments are taken directly from Caitlin's Times magazine column 30 June 2012.
"I don't know about anybody else, but I am genuinely thrilled to be living through an age where accountancy is at the top of the news agenda. It's brilliant."
"Taxation is a sore subject because it is, basically a souped up version of the argument at the   end of a restaurant lunch - where a group of work colleagues start going, "Well, I only had a main and one glass of wine." while someone else gets out their iPhone and starts sourly smashing away at SplitTheBillWithPedants app.  
 The only difference is that when we divvy up the tax bill, of course, we don't invoice people for what they've eaten - but we base it on how rich they are, instead."
"[The principle of tax] one that can be very easily countered with a ninja move. For the common and logical defence of tax avoidance that they are...PERFECTLY LEGAL"
"In the interests of balance, however, I should point out that it's also PERFECTLY LEGAL to be a total s*** - but that no one will ever thank you for it. It's PERFECTLY LEGAL to crush everything colleagues say with depressing sarcasm, abandon your pregnant spouse, or generally be a massive ball-ache - but I don't think any of us would feel a huge amount of glory defending these behaviours."
I've posted the above on this blog as Caitlin's style is deliberately entertaining. Anyone interested in the subject of tax avoidance schemes might want to read the 3 recent blog posts I wrote for the 'Ambitious Accountants' blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sean Lock on Jimmy Carr's tax scheming

In the week that Jimmy Carr was exposed as a tax avoider and then apologised for his 'grave error', fellow comedian, Sean Lock, generated some great laughs at Jimmy's expense on the TV show '8 out of 10 Cats':
We all like to put a bit of money away for a rainy day. But you're more prepared than Noah!
There's a new tv show you could do: 'Through the Loophole'. "Who lives in a tax haven like this?" 
You've got an illness. You're suffering from tax intolerance. You might even be HMRC positive.
Gary Barlow of 'Take That' also come for a little stick.
Sean said the band is now known as 'Keep That'.
And Jon Richardson concluded that Gary's OBE stands for 'Offshore Banking Expert'.

Jimmy Carr himself admitted that it was all very complicated but that as a result of his offshore agreements he feared that he is now a member of Take That.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The 'Accountants can be fun' poem

Accountants can be fun
Mine often makes me snigger
As he enthuses over Balance Sheets
And row upon row of figures 
Accountants can be fun
It's really quite uplifting
When they come up with a survival plan
And tell you "Trends are shifting" 
Accountants can be fun
They take gruesome returns in their stride
It's better to have them working for you
Than be on the other side 
Accountants can be fun
They just love Red Tape
It's good to let them "Talk you through"
Whilst listening to their japes

Accountants can be fun
You have to give them credit
Their faces light up infectiously
If you sign their Direct Debit 
Accountants can be fun
Just give them chance to shine
You may find to your amazement
That they're real rib-ticklers like mine 
Accountants have the last laugh
It really is quite eerie
They charge you if they get it wrong.
And they charge you for a query.
Penned by Kelly Sweet, who used to work in the City, according to her profile on WriteBuzz where the above first appeared.  

Friday, June 08, 2012

Death and taxes and zombies

Law professor Adam Chodorow has authored a paper "Death and Taxes and Zombies,"which will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Iowa Law Review. 

In his paper the Professor argues:
A zombie apocalypse will create an urgent need for significant government revenues to protect the living, while at the same time rendering a large portion of the taxpaying public dead or undead. 
The government’s failure to anticipate or plan for this eventuality could cripple its ability to respond effectively, putting us all at risk. 
In addition to zombies, the article also considers how estate and income tax laws should apply to vampires and ghosts. Given the difficulties identified herein of applying existing tax law to the undead, new legislation may be warranted. However, any new legislation is certain to raise its own set of problems. The point here is not to identify the appropriate approach. Rather, it is to goad Congress and the IRS into action before it is too late.
Among the specific points addressed in the paper are:

  • The differences between zombies under the power of others and self-motivating zombies
  • Is a zombie considered to be the same person it was prior to death? (a person's transformation into a raving cannibal with no heartbeat might not be enough to consider them legally deceased)
  • Whether a person is still considered married if their spouse has become undead 
  • The administrative problems of resurrecting dead social security numbers
  • If someone who becomes a zombie is considered not dead (as opposed to undead) for estate and income tax purposes, no charge to estate tax [IHT] would be triggered
  • Would zombies be considered dead because they suffered a personality change, physical disability, or decreased brain function? If so, the door would be open to declaring dead a wide range of people currently considered to be alive.
  • If a vampire is considered non-deceased for the purposes of her estate — which is to say, she retains ownership of her property in undeath — but is no longer considered a "woman" then her marriage might be considered void when she becomes a vampire.

I'm no fan of vampire films, stories and books so have no idea whether these are only issues to be considered in the USA or if they could be relevant in the UK too. In which case the big question is whether HMRC should be addressing this issue. I confess it's not something I've ever given much time to myself.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Accountant problems - as posted on twitter May 2012

The following tweets all appeared on twitter in May 2012 with the hashtag #accountantproblems

  • Getting laid is not an option for me. 
  • Indoors doing purchase testing. 
  • Reading about getting taxed when you die, sheff hallam I signed up for boring not depressing 
  • Why do people automatically assume we know everything about taxes as soon as we say we are CPAs? 
  • Why can't I make the numbers do my bidding??? 
  • When hot girls only talk to you for tax advice I hate accounting. 
  • My trial balance doesn't equal. 
  • I hate that the numbers on a telephone are opposite of a keyboard. I can never dial a phone number right the first time. 
  • The thought of spending the rest of my life in this profession is making this first work day even more miserable 
  • You accept an engagement and work till midnight. Non-chargeable admin code 
  • I am a pro-fes-ion-al at excel spreadsheets #nerd 
  • You complete a federal return and pass it up for review. Completed return for wrong year 
  • Hot girl: so what do you do for living? Me: I'm an accountant Hot girl: *silent pause* oh *walks away*

Any more? 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Private Eye discloses leaked Budget plans

A recent issue of Private Eye included a short piece titled: "Osborne's Next Budget Plans leaked".  It included:
20% VAT introduced on: 
- Raindrops on roses
- Whiskers on kittens
VAT increases on:
- Bright copper kettles
- Warm woollen mittens
- Brown paper packages (extra if tied up with string)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alternative descriptions for HMRC

Hard to believe this hasn't appeared on the blog before but it seems not.

Back in 2004 the FT asked its readers to come up with a name for the merging departments of the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise. The merger took effect from April 2005 since when the organisation has been known as HMRC or HM Revenue & Customs or simply The Revenue. Plenty in the media and in Parliament have also continued to refer to the body, incorrectly, as the Inland Revenue - as if the last 7 years had never happened).

The winning entry in the FT's competition was suggested by Ed Troup, who is now Director General Tax and Welfare at HM Treasury. He suggested: Finance Collection UK though it would have been known by its initials, were they not already in use by the retail chain French Connection.

 Other suggestions included:
  • iTax 
  • Taxes R Us
With the benefit of 7 years experience, what abbreviations or names might be more appropriate now if The Revenue was to go for a rebrand?

Those I've seen suggested recently include:
  • As an acronym HMRC is HoMewReCker!
  • Department of National Financing 
  • Department of National Funding 
  • Department of Social Financing
  • Duties, Income Levies, Deductions, Operations (but that might have some initial problems)
  • DRC = Department for Revenue Collection
  • P I N C H - Processing Income Now Creates Help (...for tomorrow) 
  • Crown Revenue Service 
  • British Revenue Services 
Any more?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TPA Chatup lines posted on twitter

The following lines are hardly PC but they did make me smile. Apparently inspired by a line in a recent report published jointly by the TaxPayers Alliance and the IoD referencing wealth and sexual prowess. The following all appeared on 21 May with the hashtag #TPAchatuplines

@christopherward Fancy a quickie? Make sure you use a non-dom.

@Lefty_Lisa "You know what they say, it's not the size of the state, it's what you do with it"

@Markfergusonuk Nice laffer curves

@MrHarryCole I am writing to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2005. Are you free next Saturday?

@Scarletstand Assets aren't the only thing I'll be stripping tonight.

@AllisterHeath Keynes said "In the long run we are all dead". What are you doing tonight?

@matthew_elliott Your dress is like my ideal tax system. Cut low and with lots of transparency

@S8mB Bottom up or top down?

@Scarletstand Your second home or mine?

@sunny_hundal "If you come back with me tonight I'll show you my laffer curve"

‏@OllyNeville I know a great way to stimulate your private sector

@rrana53: Oh, stop with your quantitative teasing.

@LuckyAitkens Shall we take this offshore?

@teddyryan89 No, I don't think we're going too far too fast

@MShapland There was negative growth? Thats never happened to me before

@jpshaddock Sorry darling, I don't pay tax on a first date

Friday, May 18, 2012

Daft accounting related definitions

Book value: Value placed on an asset for accounting purposes that bears no relation to its true worth.
Budgeting: An exercise where the unknowledgeable force the unwilling to predict the impossible based entirely on the inaccurate.
Credit: Something that accountants rarely get.
FIFO: 'First In, First Out', a method of valuing stock. Also a method never used when accountancy firms are considering redundancies.
Goodwill: Concept invested to explain the difference between the value of a company and the price another company paid for it.
LIFO: 'Last In, Last Out', a method of valuing stock. Also a method frequently used when accountancy firms are considering redundancies.
Liability: Money or goods owed by a company. Also a first-year audit trainee.
Prudence: A fundamental accounting principle, designed to lend dignity to inaccuracy.
Reconciliation: The art of proving that one inaccurate figure exactly agrees with another inaccurate figure.

Taken from 'The Bluffer's Guide to Accountancy'

NB: This is the 600th item to be published on this blog. Who'd have thought it?!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fantasy tax simplification

The biggest laugh at last night's CTA Address came in response to a question from the floor.

The question was related to a point the speaker, Andrew Tyrie*, had made about the need for the tax system to be made simpler. He had also stressed, as others have done for many years, that this will only really happen when Ministers are really motivated to change the system.

What if, all Ministers and members of the Treasury Select Committee were obliged to complete their own self assessment tax returns using only HMRC's online facilities.........and limited solely to the support available from HMRC's telephone helpline?

Cue - knowing laughter from the 200+ Chartered Tax Advisers and Accountants in the audience.

*Andrew Tyrie MP, Chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Best not to be abusive

This is a true story about a tax dispute that went on for two years before the underlying issue was clarified. It made me smile.

An Inspector of Taxes was explaining to me that the owner of the small business had been refusing to co-operate. As a result a relatively straightforward tax dispute about a tax scheme was heading towards the first tier tax tribunal.

It was when the case was reviewed and a new Inspector contacted the taxpayer that the REAL issue became apparent. The taxpayer had misread a letter from HMRC which referred to his involvement in an abusive tax arrangement. The taxpayer thought that HE personally was being accused of ABUSE and he resented this. In the event a simple apology from HMRC for the misunderstanding enabled negotiations to commence properly and the dispute was later resolved without the need for a formal hearing.

I didn't find out whether it really was the taxpayer who had misunderstood or if the original letter from HMRC was poorly worded. Who knows?!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bookkeeping made really simple and fun

Except that it's never really much fun...

And many congratulations to Julia Haigh, the winner of the AAT bookkeeping video competition. This required entrants to explain the principles of double-entry bookkeeping in three minutes or less.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

5 "I love my accountant' tweets that made me smile

Letter from HMRC about completing my tax return. I read it in Moira Stewarts voice, and then posted it to my accountant to sort. Love it.

I love how you know so much about my expenses. When did I hire you as my accountant?

A person who is awake when the World sleeps... A Chartered Accountant. ♥ my passion my love my life CA

"Daddy, do I need to like file taxes?" "No sweetie. I took care of that" #BestDaddyEver" love my accountant dad

I love my accountant.i love more that I have learned to give up being an expert at everything &let others do things I can't do/can't do well

Friday, April 20, 2012

3 weird US tax deductions

  1. In Alabama, you can still deduct $1,000 for building a radioactive fallout shelter.
  2. In Arkansas, blind combat veterans may buy a new car every two years tax free.
  3. In Hawaii, residents can claim a $3,000 deduction for taking care of "exceptional trees" on their property - as long as an expert deems them "exceptional."
Credit due to: The Atlantic (and thanks to Steve Odem for passing this onto me).

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The VAT ditty

A story about this video caught my eye in the paper today. Thought I'd share it more widely as it's very well written.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ode to auditing

We test without apology
Both safety and ecology
And inventories, budgets, and production.
Checking scrap and sanitation,
Overtime, and transportation –
Not forgetting cost accounting and construction.
We test sales and check insurance
(EDP tries our endurance
As we audit payroll, cash, and simulation!)
We study management by objective,
Test controls that are defective,
And evaluate employee compensation.
We do sampling and regression
And there is a strong impression
We’re responsible for catching all crooks.
We are really in our element
With research and development –
But thankfully we do not keep the books.
We check aircraft, trucks and motor cars,
And rockets that fly up to the stars,
And leases, loans – even personnel.
We examine engineering
Even salvage is endearing
And we check on records management as well.
There is nothing we can’t verify –
There’s nothing that escapes our eye.
Alert to all misconduct and to fraud.
We will go where others fear to tread
And as it has often been said,
"We are the eyes and ears of management and the Board."

- By Lawrence Sawyer

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Possibly the best email disclaimer ever

It's at the foot of emails from Peter Disney of Wood & Disney, a firm of Chartered Accountants. Peter has kindly given his permission for me to replicate it here.


Despite being based just 2 minutes from the internationally famous Gnome Magic (although we don't actually know anyone who admits to having visited it) and I have the unfortunate name of a well known cartoon creator we accept no responsibility whatsoever for anything particularly towards those with no sense of humour.

This communication together with any attachments transmitted with it ('this E-mail') is strictly private and is intended for the use of the very special and unique individual named above. It may contain information that is confidential, privileged or unsuitable for those with a sensitive disposition.

If you are not the intended recipient, any review, retransmission, disclosure, dissemination, distribution or copying of this email is not authorized (and could even be a criminal offence if we get the right judge) but at the very least constitutes an irritating social faux pas.

Addressees should check this E-mail for viruses, contaminants, pollutants, infections and any other form of submicroscopic organisms. wood and disney makes no representations as regards the absence of such potential nasties in this E-mail.

If you have received this E-mail in error please notify our IT Systems Team immediately by telephone on + 44 (01206) 233170 or via E-mail at

Please then immediately destroy this E-mail including all attachments or corresponding hyperlinks etc and any copies of thereof. Don't forget to delete from your recycle bin and from all forms of backup media. If you are one of those strange people who prints out your emails but do not have a shredder then you are legally obliged to eat this message even if it gives you indigestion.

Wood & Disney Limited does not enter into any form of contract by means of Internet e-mail. All contracts to which Wood & Disney Limited is a party are to be documented by original paperwork and real signatures which is a bit tricky since everyone who works here is a cartoon character.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Can Economics and tax be fun?

Dr Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute, is attempting to prove that economics is fun. In this, part ten in a series, he explains taxation by ref to Adam Smith's four basic canons of taxation.

Friday, March 09, 2012

How to value something that can't be sold

I am indebted to that doyen of the UK tax world, Robert Maas who has written about this on his blog. I will simply summarise the issue here.

The case involved the need to impute a market value to a work of art called “Canyon” by Robert Rauschenberg. This is a collage. Unfortunately it incorporates a stuffed bald eagle. It is a criminal offence in America to sell a bald eagle under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act 1940.

The owner didn't sell it but, when she died, the question was what value to place on the collage?

Three separate art appraisers told the executors that “Canyon” is valueless as all that the owner can do with it is gift it to a US art gallery. The IRS disagree. They say, apparently, that the executors should be able to find a reclusive Chinese billionaire who would buy the artwork on the black market and smuggle it out of the USA in order to hide it away. On this basis the IRS value the artwork at $65million. They are also apparently seeking a $11.7million penalty for “gross valuation misstatement” even though the executors accepted the unanimous view of three separate professional valuers that the artwork had a nil value!

Not so much a tax funny as a bizare true story, worth sharing I thought. If you agree do read the full story on Robert's blog.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The purchase ledger accountant's lament

Piles of purchase invoices, in all colours and sizes
Apparently so varied but with very few surprises
The Boss will read them carefully before he authorises
Then it’s my job to process them as my blood pressure rises

I say each number quietly to get it in my brain
And as I type it to the screen I say it once again
The others in the office think my mumbling’s a pain
They say it shows I’m mad, but can I promise you – I’m sane!

Once input to the system I’m so careful where I pile ‘em
Too close to the window, they’ll be gone before I file ‘em
And that would be the end of me, straight off to the asylum…
My loving caring colleagues would be very quick to dial ‘em

So here I am, an invoice clerk until the bitter end
Most of the time I work real hard but sometimes I pretend
I’m living in a different world, with mates and cash to spend
Oh please won’t someone rescue me? I’M GOING ROUND THE BEND!

Written by Sean Kelly.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Proposal for a Mustached American Tax Incentive

The American Mustache Institute, an organization that has tasked itself with protecting the rights of and fighting discrimination against mustached Americans by promoting the growth, care, and culture of the mustache, has proposed a $250 tax deduction for the cost of mustache grooming supplies.

The so-called “Stache Act” is based on a paper by Dr. John Yeutter from Northeastern State University titled “Mustached Americans and the Triple Bottom Line: An Analysis of the Impact of the Mustache on Modern Society and a Proposal for a Mustached American Tax Incentive.”

In the paper, Dr. Yeutter examines the environmental, social, and economic impact of the growth and maintenance of labia secuculas (Latin for “lip sweaters”). He concludes that “stached” Americans should be provided an itemized deduction for expenses exceeding 2 percent of their adjusted gross income.

Some of the expenses listed in the paper include:
  • Mustache and beard trimming instruments
  • Mustache wax and weightless conditioning agents
  • DVD collections of “Magnum P.I.” and “Smokey & the Bandit”
  • Burt Reynolds wallet-sized photos

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lord Harman's predictive quote

In a 1964 speech British law lord, Lord Justice Harman, told an audience:

‘Accountants are the witch doctors of the modern world and willing to turn their hands to any kind of magic.’

I note that this quote appears on dozens of firms of accountants' websites.

(You need to know me to know why that quote so appeals to me. There's a clue in this earlier posting on this blog)

Friday, February 17, 2012

It can be expensive being a tax adviser

Arriving by train in Penrith, Cumbria, to present a talk to the local CIOT branch, I took a cab to the venue. The driver asked me what I was doing in Penrith and I explained:
“I’m here to give a lecture to a group of tax advisers”.
For a moment I was thrown as he seemed very miffed. It then became clear from his reply that he had misheard me:
“It would be nice to have been invited. I’ve been a taxi driver here for over ten years!”
I was unable to keep a straight face!

I shared the story during my talk and at the tea-break one of the delegates came over to explain she’d had a similar problem recently.

When arranging her car insurance by phone, she was astonished by the premium quote. It was more than 8 times what she had paid the previous year. She queried the figure and was told this was due to her profession, and the risks inherent in this.
“What are the inherent risks of being a tax adviser?” she asked.
At which point it became apparent the insurer had thought she said she was a ‘taxi driver’.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Sexy Poem About Kashflow

This poem was contributed by Sue Lee (no relation) to the kashflow Valentine's day facebook competition. For those who don't know, kashflow is an online accounting software package.

Sue says her poem was written "in the style of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg (with apologies to the easily offended. And poetry lovers."
I knew it was forever the first time that we met;
You understood my discount yield and reconciled my debt.
You deftly spread my balance sheets and made me lose control;
Accounts became receivable; you filled my software hole.

My profit margins maximise whenever you are near;
My lump sums get much lumpier; my hedge fund feels all queer.
You use your column expertly to maximise returns;
My assets start to liquify; my compound interest burns….

You touch my bottom line with skill and fondle my arrears;
Your double-entry bookkeeping can leave me close to tears.
My cash has never flowed so well, my funds are all now sunk;
Oh, come and lay me off to tax, you great big Kashflow hunk!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I can destroy you, Moira Stewart tells self-assessment taxpayers

Well - at least that's what 'The Daily Mash' (a satirical online newspaper) is reporting. Their spoof article continues:

MOIRA Stewart, the all-seeing God of Tax, has warned of great suffering for those self-employed workers whose forms displease her.

Powerful divinity Stewart, whose earthly guises include a semi-likeable middle-aged woman, a grey fox and a fire-breathing lizard with nine heads and 43 tusks, has assured mortals that she will not be made a mockery of as the Great Deadline of January 31 approaches.

Stewart, also known as Brabarine or 'The Taxacious One', said: “The hour of self-assessment is nigh.

“But heed my words – a Tesco carrier bag full of crumpled receipts and sweet wrappers does not represent adequate record keeping.

“Nor can you simply make up a number, times it by four and call it your 'mileage allowance'.

“I have many eyes and many ears. My minions include HMRC inspectors, birds and little insects that land on my shoulder and chirrup of your lies.”

Stewart's main shrine, The Golden Temple of the HMRC Dawn, has been inundated with offerings from workers anxious to curry favour with the implacable god.

Scaffolder Tom Logan said: “After sending my tax return, I became paranoid that I may have somehow forgotten to include about six months' worth of cash-in-hand work.

“So I've brought this fatted calf and plan to kill it in the reception area, hoping that it will encourage Moira Stewart to be merciful.”

Meanwhile thousands of concerned self-assessment taxpayers are trapped in the Celestial Maze, also known as the HMRC Helpline.

Masseuse Nikki Hollis said: “There are many menus, each one promising to lead you to an advisor.

“But they only lead to further menus, or a recorded message telling you to go to the website. And if you accidentally press '3', you die instantly."

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Inland Revenue episode of QI

A recent episode of the current series of BBC TVs QI focused on the Inland Revenue. Clearly no one had told the researchers or producers that HMRC took over from the Inland Revenue almost 7 years ago (April 2005).

Still, that quibble aside, some of the stories are worth repeating on this blog:

The world's most exotic tax inspectors are in Pakistan. If you refuse to pay your tax you are shamed into paying it by receiving a visit from a team of tax inspectors who are all transgender. They would then sing and dance in your place of business until you paid up. In Andhra Pradesh, India, tax inspectors use drummers to get people to pay tax, by standing outside the place of business and banging on the drums loudly until they pay up. The comedians on the show considered how the 'Inland Revenue' might achieve a similar outcome here. The favoured conclusion was to send in the Morris Dancers.

Sandi Toksvig once spent three days with a tax man who investigated all of her accounts. In the end he did not find anything and the taxman said: "To be honest Miss Toksvig, I just wanted to meet you."

Dara O'Briain recalled an actor who tried to claim his carpet against tax because of the wear and tear he caused when he walked up and down while he learnt his lines. He did not get away with it. Dara himself once tried to claim for a bed but failed, while Sandi attempted to claim for some paintings in her office, failing as well. She told the tax inspector that no-one could possibly work in an office which had no art in it. Sandi looked around the inspector's office and saw that it had just one poster in it, which explained the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Kids explain why they want to be tax accountants when they grow up

Sadly there's an element of truth in a lot of what they say.
(In the UK it's worth noting that when these kids talk about 'auditors' they are referencing the IRS not their accountancy colleagues in the audit dept)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

An ode to auditing

Auditors are people too, we’re not nasty and mean
No need for fear and loathing whenever we are seen
Don’t hide behind your desk or go and nervously take flight
We’re only there to try to make sure everything’s all right
So when we do a test it isn’t just because we can
It’s to check your system’s working right all neatly spick and span
When we ask awkward questions it’s simply that we care
That your records may be incomplete with not all you need there
We look for fraud it’s true but hope to find it? We do not!
Dealing with fraud just adds more to the work that is our lot
Yes auditors are lovely with a helpful task to do
It’s only incidental when we make more work for you
I hope that now you understand and so, what do you say
Will you fight prejudice and hug an auditor today?

Contributed by StePurham on AccountingWeb

The journalist, the engineer, the lawyer and the accountant

A businessman was interviewing applicants for the position of Divisional Manager. He devised a simple test to select the most suitable perso...