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Showing posts from 2014

An accountant goes to the doctor......

An accountant knocks on the door of his doctor's surgery and walks in.
"Hello, doctor. Please help. I just don't know what's wrong with me. Goodbye." With that he turns around and walks out.
30 seconds later he is back. "Hello again, doctor. Please help. I just don't know what's wrong with me."

The Doctor looks up from his desk and says:
"Mmm. I think you have a serious case of double entry."

Tax issues for Santa to ponder

Santa's VAT adviser, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she has been pondering some key issues:

First things first, is Santa a taxable person? He is only active once a year (though it is a busy night and he visits a lot of countries!). Also his activity is carried out very regularly every year (he never misses). But is he carrying out an economic activity? Is he giving the presents away or are the mince pies and brandy left out for him (and the carrots for the reindeer) non monetary consideration (not to mention the requirement that the children have to have been good – which is surely priceless).

Is the letter to Santa a contract and what happens if one party (the child) fails to meet its part of the bargain (the aforementioned ‘being good’ bit). If the gifts left for each child in a household cost less than £50 and there is no consideration provided, can Santa claim the input tax on these without there being an output tax liability?

How should he value the work of the elves …

Scary Tax Movies

Many thanks to @Freeagent for prompting twitter users to suggest #ScaryTaxMovies this Halloween.

I've picked some of the best suggestions:
Tax Return of the Living Dead - +PracticeWEB Ltd
Silence of the ledgers - +slackbladder35
Taxes Chainsaw Massacre - +Kelly Forbes
Friday 31st January and Rosemary's Bookkeeper - +cashprotect
An American Multinational in London - +Adrian Pearson
The Taxorcist - +FreeAgent
Auditor Dogs - +AccountingWEB
I Know What You Earnt Last Summer - +Milo McLaughlin
Star Wars VI: Tax Return of the Jedi - @mrderekrussell
A VAT Inspector Calls - +Roan Lavery
28 days overdue - @mattbrailsford
Account Dracular and VATMAN Returns @twithomas
Tax InSpectre Gadget - +OwenOhReally
And my own offerings: VATman begins
Psycho tax inspector
Young VATenstein
Phantom of the Tax Office
Little shop of HMRC
The Fair Tax Project

'Born to the m-i-i-i-i-i-ld' (To the tune of Steppenwolf's 'Born to be Wild')

Calculator running Totalling invoices Looking at debentures And all other finance choices
Yeah darling, gonna make it add up Put the world in a big spreadsheet Do all of my sums at once and Leave it really neat
Some find accounts frightnin’ Leaves them full of wonder All of these expenses Just what heading are they under?
Yeah darling, gonna make it add up Put the world in a big spreadsheet Do all of my sums at once and Leave it really neat
All prop-er-ly filed I was born, born to be mild Tax returns so sly I make the taxman cry
Born to be mi-i-i-ild
Born to be mi-i-i-ild
Calculator running Totalling invoices Looking at debentures And all other finance choices
Yeah darling, gonna make it add up Put the world in a big spreadsheet Do all of my sums at once and Leave it really neat
All properly filed I was born, born to be mild Tax returns so sly I make the taxman cry
Born to be mi-i-i-ild

Born to be mi-i-i-ild
Words by accountant and poet: Stephen Brown Audio version can be heard here.

It's official: HMRC writes "ridiculous" "nonsense"

Given this is a fun blog it's not usual for me to reference the decision in a tax tribunal. But it was impossible to resist when I heard about what the tribunal said.
Mr South was appealing against a late filing penalty in respect of his tax return for 2012/13.  HMRC claimed to have sent him a notice requiring him to file the return in question. The computer then sent an automatic penalty which was what alerted Mr South to the need to file the return.
He was reluctant to pay the late filing penalty as he had not received a 'notice to file' and had not been required to file returns every year in the recent past. 
Mr South then received a rejection of his appeal sent by an official from HMRC who said:  “On reviewing I can see that no evidence to date has been received confirming that you did not receive a tax return or notice to file.” In reaching their decision that Mr South did NOT need to pay the penalty the Tribunal said:
The result of [Mr South's] appeal is a piece o…

An accountant with a STANDOUT way of describing himself

The way Mark Asquith, Managing Director of Asquith & Co, describes himself, on the meet the team page of his website, certainly makes him stand out. I'm referring especially to the table beneath the more conventional opening paras:
I have been working in accountancy since 1982 having started work as a spotty trainee on leaving school. Asquith & Co became a reality in 2001 although I had previously hankered after being self-employed.  I love helping clients to keep just on the right side of the taxman while, hopefully, having a few laughs on the way - this is not easy but I do try.                    Specialist subject:     Saving you money                    Likes:                        Saving you money                    Dislikes:                    Not saving you money                     Favourite colour:       Black... keeping you in it                    Favourite food:         Roast taxman                     Favourite place:       Judo mat                    Curren…

Tax flags

A British guy was chatting with his American friend and was jokingly explaining about the red, white and blue in our National flag.

"Our flag symbolises our taxes," he said. "We get red when we talk about them, white when we get our tax bill, and blue after we pay them."

"That's the same with us," the American said, "only we see stars, too."

When a young accountant bought a donkey

Many years ago a young accountant, Warren, moved to the country and bought a donkey from an old farmer for £200.

The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When he drove up the farmer said: "Sorry son, but I have some bad news. The donkey died."
Warren replied, "Well then, just give me my money back." The farmer said, "Can't do that. I've gone and spent it already." Warren said, "OK, then just unload the donkey."

The farmer asked, "What ya gonna do with him?" Warren replied: "I'm going to raffle him off." Farmer: "You can't raffle off a dead donkey!" Warren was insistent: "Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he is dead."

A month later the farmer met up with Warren and asked, "What happened with that dead donkey?" 

Warren replied: "I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at £2 a piece and made a profit of £800."

The farmer was astonished: &q…

Very thick skinned accountant wanted by boss of Ryanair

I was amused by this headline in The Times: Wanted by Ryanair: accountant, very thick-skinned.
Rarely does an accountancy job qualify as a hazardous posting in a hostile environment. However, there is a vacancy for a personal aide to the notoriously volatile boss of Ryanair. The Irish airline is advertising for an “assistant to Ryanair’s CEO”, Michael O’Leary, stipulating an “ambitious qualified accountant” able to work in a “demanding, challenging and interesting role”.
Good luck if this appeals and you get the job!

Death and Taxes and Zombies

The following academic paper was brought to my attention after I tweeted a link to a newspaper report that incorrectly implied that more and more people are being 'hit' by inheritance tax while they are still alive.
This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead. Beginning with the critical question of whether the undead should be considered dead for estate tax purposes, the article continues on to address income tax issues the undead are likely to face. 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. Th…

All accountants are.......?

When you start searching in Google the clever little thing offers to complete your search string. In effect the system recognises and offers you the rest of what other people have searched for even if the words are in a different order.

Here are some of the suggestions Google offered me recently by reference to the few words I typed in each case:
all accountants are.... ....boring .....alcoholics
most accountants are.... accountants most unhappy accountants most likely to have an affair most famous accountants why don't accountants.... ....get paid overtime? .....consider opportunity cost [of their time]? can accountants.... ...certify documents? ...sign passports? from home? ....become rich?
Inspired by David Gilroy, "Director of Stuff & Things", at Conscious Solutions Limited, whose latest newsletter referenced a similar exercise he did re solicitors.

What clients say to wind up their accountant

What do clients say that winds you up?"I just popped everything in this carrier bag here - I knew you could sort it all out for me.""My friend's accountant says.....""I need a mortgage reference - you will make the figures look good for me won't you?""A friend in the pub said that he's certain that....""My van was broken into and........... all of my receipts were stolen""How can I have made such much profit when I've no money left in the bank""My son has been onto the HMRC web site and......."" I've already signed my tax return. Just fill in the details as usual""I've put the cost of the new extension through, as I do make coffee in the new kitchen while I am working from home""I will be able to pay you once someone has paid me." Always said AFTER you have completed their accounts."My mate in the pub knows someone whose uncle-in-law reckons that I'm be…

John Challis on why he didn't become a tax inspector

John Challis tells the story that in the late 1970's he was summoned by one of her Majesty's Tax Inspectors to discuss his meagre contribution to the Inland Revenue.

John notes that he sat before a middle-aged grey suited man who had obviously not seen the light of day for some time and, after a few minutes silence, the Inspector looked up and said: "You seem to be remarkably unsuccessful in your chosen profession, why don't you give it up and do something more rewarding?"

John thought for a moment and replied: "What? You mean become a tax inspector or something?"

"There's no need to be offensive," replied the Inspector.

John says he's rather glad he didn't follow the Inspector's advice. [Since then he's gone onto star as Boysie in Only Fools and Horses and in the spin-off sit com The Green Green Grass]

Charlie's Tax Return (from The West Wing)

The 3 short clips linked up here are a delightful reminder of how wonderful was the TV show, The West Wing. And even though it addresses US taxes the reason for the discrepancy can just as easily arise under the UK's PAYE system.

The bar at the Taxation Awards

Stephen Mangan was the host at last week's Taxation Awards. This is an annual event for 600 of the UK's top tax advisers - and a few hangers on like me.

Mangan did a superb job. Worth a mention on this blog were his observations after he announced that following the awards ceremony there would be a cash bar.
"A cash bar? At the Taxation awards? Make sure you keep your receipts!" Oh well. maybe you had to be there...

Hidden money away and not told the taxman? Your options...

The following suggestions are those of Phil Hodgen. He has offered this advice especially for those who have hidden money away in Lichtenstein banks, lied and not declared the interest on their accounts:

Jump up and down and say “It’s not right! The government can’t do illegal stuff like that!” (Response: So what? Cat. Bag. Out.) Sit tight and do nothing. (Response: Inevitable merely postponed. Pain handed to your kids because you won’t deal with it.) Run away to Panama. (Saw that happen last week for a US citizen I know. He is a fugitive for the rest of his life.)  Or you can be a grown up and clean up your mess. (Why make a money problem into a jail problem?)

10 things a good accountant would never say....

Yes, my fees could be lower if you pay me in cash I'll find a way to justify all those supermarket receipts in your accounts Sure you can pay me less because you ignored my advice on how to make more profits HMRC have no problem with retrospective tax planingYour tax return only took me 5 minutes to do I love working from carrier bags full of clients' paperworkI have decided not to charge you anything this year The taxman will give up once he knows I'm representing youDon't worry about getting receipts Yes, we can rewrite the past and pretend you did things that you didn't really do Any more for any more? What else would you never say?

What it takes to become a professional accountant

Every now and then I come across a US video about accountants that I feel fits on this site. I've just become aware of the CPA 2014 Rule the Tube video competition and one of the finalist videos made me really smile. Hope you like it too.

Tax evasion excuses that don't work: The magic golden fish

A tax inspector arrived at the front door of a magnificent 8 bedroom mansion in the depths of the countryside.

"How have you managed to buy this luxurious mansion whilst your income is so low?" he asked the market trader who lived there.

"Well" replied the trader, "When I was fishing last year, I caught a golden fish. When I took it off the hook the fish looked at me and spoke. It said: 'I am a magic golden fish. Throw me back in the water and I'll give you the most luxurious mansion you have ever seen.' I threw the fish back into the water and got the mansion."

The tax inspector looked at the trader suspiciously. "And what proof do you have, to convince me that this preposterous story is true?"

"Well, you can see the mansion can't you?"

The accountant with a special time clock

There was an unscrupulous accountant who always overcharged his customers.

He had a special clock built that ran faster than other clocks. It ran at nearly twice the speed of a normal clock so that 1 hour would appear as 2 hours. He then tracked his time by using the fast clock and in essence doubled his billing hours.

He bragged about his overcharging process to his close friends and his wife. He also bragged about other topics such as his golf score, his time in running the mile and his endurance when being intimate with his wife.

The latter was his most proud accomplishment. Therefore, it took him by surprise when his wife filed for divorce a year later. He remonstrated with her “Dear why would you leave me? I have given you money, a fine house, companionship and a great love life!”

She replied, “True, you have given me money and a fine house – although by ill gotten gains. Your companionship is shallow because you only think of yourself AND as to your skills in the bedroom, I jus…

Novel and fun claims for tax relief

I'd love to see other examples attached as comments to this posting.

Thanks to Keith Deane for letting me know about a self-employed accountant who worked from home. He claimed that he often received books from clients (especially jobbing builders) that were "covered in muck".

As a result he claimed that he had to constantly wash his hands to rid himself of exclusively business dirt and as such the water so consumed was an essential element of his business activity. Thus the accountant claimed a proportion of his household water bills as being business related.

Keith does not relate HMRC's reaction to the claim - though I think we can guess....

Now that's novel. What other examples can you suggest?

Some ecards re taxes - that made me smile

Accountancy talent show - for singers.....

Newsbiscuit reports as follows:

Top singers, actors, dancers and rock stars have all been queuing up in the hope of getting a steady job in accountancy in the latest talent show to top the ratings in the United States.

‘I always had this secret dream that I might one day work in some area of financial management’ said an excited Beyonce, ‘but this TV show means that at last there is the chance that my dreams might come true…’ she said as she practised her audition piece with her calculator and spreadsheet.

Contestants have just thirty seconds to impress the judges with their advice on tax returns and deductible expenses. But only a few lucky ones will go forward to ‘Accountancy Camp’ where the heartache and elation of discovering who has the talent to go all the way will be watched by millions of viewers.

‘Ever since I was a kid I used to practise accountancy in my bedroom…’ confessed Adele. ‘I’ve sent a few tables of some projected expenses into all the big firms, but even though the…

Why Tax Returns Belong With Cake - alledgedly

Regular readers of my main website will know I am keen on the idea of accountants and bookkeepers standing out from the crowd. One lady who does this in a unique way is Rosie Slosek of 'one man band accounting'.

Her website has a distinct feel about it - beyond the fact that she has a single clearly defined target audience - which you might guess from the name of her site.

Rosie, who offers bookkeeping services to one man bands, seems to be almost obsessed with cakes and brownies!  The menu bar at the top of her site starts, on the left, as usual with 'home'. The next item though is 'cake'. The cake page explains that Rosie sends one of her signature home made brownies to each new client. Her intention is to "turn Accounts Time into You Time".

On her blog Rosie shares 3 reasons that tax returns belong with cake.

She explains that baking is like bookkeeping in that you need to do a lot of precise things in the right order. With baking, you get a delicio…

Outrageous pop stars do it to avoid tax

The Swedish pop group Abba are reported to have admitted in a book, that the outrageous outfits they wore on stage in their heydey were chosen to avoid tax.

It seems the Swedish tax code is similar to that of the UK when it comes to claiming tax relief for clothing. To ensure that their stage outfits were allowable deductions the costumes had to be so outrageous that they couldn't be worn on the street. Apparently many Swedish bands made as habit of dressing as flamboyantly as possible.

Reflecting on the group's sartorial record in a new book, Björn Ulvaeus said: "In my honest opinion we looked like nuts in those years. Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were."

Clearly Bjorn has forgotten about the British glam rockers of the 1970s - many of whom wore equally outrageous outfits.  I'm thinking of the Sweet, T-Rex, Slade - there are many such examples from my youth. Who'd have thought they chose their outfits to avoid tax?!

And, even though t…

A taxing approach to Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day HMRC issued a prompt to anyone claiming tax credits, who has a partner moving in with them, to say those three little words.........

"....Tell the Taxman."

Tax credit claimants who don’t keep HMRC up to date about their circumstances risk getting an overpayment, a fine or possibly a criminal prosecution. So it's good advice ;-)

In a similar vein I came across a couple of related Valentine's day poems being tweeted by accountants:

Roses are red  Violets are blue  Here's your tax return  My fee note too 
That's from Kevin the Accountant of KAL Accountants who also seems to have inspired this one:
Rose is a flower  Violet's a flower  Hope they don't mind  That you charge by the hour

Rod Liddle's innovative ideas about tax planning

I came across this wonderful expose on the Sage Exchange, Accountancy community blog. Rod Liddle is a guest writer there and, in an intro piece about his own approach to accountancy and tax, he explains his attitude to tax planning as follows:
"In the short-term I've tried to interest my accountants in reconfiguring Friar Luca Paciolis' famous formula for double-entry bookkeeping to incorporate two new values when calculating my tax bill: n, which represents a sum of money to be deducted from my taxable income based upon how nice I have been to people during the year, as estimated by myself, and x which represents a sum of money I have received from somewhere and do not wish the tax people to know about. So the re-written formula would read: Assets = L+C-D-N+R(-X)-E.  I firmly believe that this innovation is the single greatest contribution to accountancy since the renaissance (and, with respect to Fra Pacioli, perhaps before), and I suspect that all of your clients will …

A cheesy way to avoid tax....

The mountains of the Savoie region are home to Reblochon, the famous French washed rind cheese.

The name “Reblochon” comes from the French verb “reblocher”, which we have no English equivalent for, but roughly translates to: “The act of pinching a cow’s udders.”

In the Middle-Ages, farmers in the mountains of Haute Savoie used to pay their taxes with part of their milk production. In order to bring their production levels down, the farmers wouldn’t fully milk their cows. Once the tax officers came to measure the milk produced and left, the farmers went back to milk the cows again. In between milkings, the milk would culture, making it much richer and giving it more depth of flavor.

Today Reblochon is still made using partially cultured milk, but no longer as a means of tax evasion.

Credit for this piece of cheesy tax avoidance history goes to Great Ciao a Minnesota based provider of artisan produced cheese

Who would be the Sherlock and Watson of the tax world?

This morning Heather Self, tax expert and of Pinsent Masons, was interviewed about some tax issues on BBC Radio 5. On her arrival at the studio she posted a photo on twitter of the sight that faced her.

This led to a short series of humorous tweets including:
- Will the next episode of Sherlock be the new case of the missing receptionist?
- Who would be the Sherlock and Watson of the tax world?

This inspired the following suggestions:

Sherlock: John AndrewsWatson: Mike TrumanMycroft: Holmes: John WhitingMoriarty: Richard MurphyMrs Hudson: Lin HomerInspector Lestrade: Edward Troup
Which other TV programme would you recast with personalities from the tax world?

Kinky accountants?

How do you know if your accountant's a bit kinky?

When they insist on satin balance sheets

The tax deductible guard dog

Many years ago a publican had an afternoon meeting with a tax inspector in his pub. The publican had been claiming tax relief in respect the upkeep of his 'guard dog' but the taxman was unwilling to concede that this was acceptable.

The publican replied that upstairs in the pub were both the dog and the lunchtime takings. He invited the taxman to go upstairs, on his own, and if the taxman returned with the takings the publican would agree to add back the disputed expenses.

The taxman's refused to go upstairs and allowed the expense in full.

My thanks to Barry Jefford of George Hay, Chartered Accountants, for the story which was told to him by his client, being the publican in question.

Compliments for accountants

Full marks to to the team at PracticeWeb for creating a random compliment generator specifically for accountants. You can access it here and get as many random compliments as you like.

Here are some samples of what you might find:

When HMRC see your tax returns, they applaud...then cry Thank you SO MUCH, it was such a relief to know you were dealing with it I used to think accountants were wrong was I? Not only are you gorgeous but you're great at minimising corporation tax
You get the idea ;-)

HMRC's top ten list of bizarre, exotic and flimsy excuses

HMRC has revealed the ‘Top 10 oddest excuses’ for sending in a late return.

The following "bizarre, exotic and flimsy" excuses have all been tried, unsuccessfully by tardy taxpayers who were hoping to avoid the £100 late filing penalty:

My pet goldfish died (self-employed builder); I had a run-in with a cow (Midlands farmer); After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else (London woman); My wife won’t give me my mail (self-employed trader); My husband told me the deadline was 31 March, and I believed him (Leicester hairdresser); I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play (Coventry writer); My bad back means I can’t go upstairs. That’s where my tax return is (a working taxi driver); I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land (South East man); Our business doesn’t really do anything (Kent financial services firm); and I’ve been too busy submitting my clients’ tax retur…