Friday, December 16, 2016

Hamish McTax's chilling tax rhyme

Sarah Saunders is clearly a fan of Macbeth. She is credited by Taxation magazine with finding (or imagining) a new parchment used by Shakespeare as a source for his play, Macbeth.

It's a witty piece that could be said to examine the play through the lens of modern day taxation. The document itself appears to have been written by Hamish McTax, Royal Counsellor, Tax Adviser to Royalty.

Apparently "scribbled on the back of the document was this chilling rhyme:"

Double, double, VAT is trouble,
ATED burn and FATCA bubble.
Number of a DOTAS scheme,
Echo of a non-dom's scream.
partner's notice, APN,
Payment with a stroke of pen.
Film investment, foreign trust,
years of planning, turned to dust.
For a charm of taxing trouble,
Like a hell-broth, boil and bubble.

Nice one,  Sarah

Friday, December 09, 2016

The 12 tax days of Christmas

Just spotted a wonderful topical piece on The article contains a series of inventive and fiscally accurate explanations offered by Emily Coltman of FreeAgent as she analyses the tax consequences of every one of the gifts mentioned in the classic song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Emily imagines that the minstrel, whose "true love" gave all these gifts, needs help completing a tax return. What, imagines Emily, would be the income tax and VAT rules applicable to the gifts that make up the famous festive menagerie?

What follows is just a sample from some of the explanations. In each case Emily provides rather more detail than is appropriate for this fun blog ;-) 

A partridge in a pear tree This is what HMRC call a “mixed supply” for VAT, because it’s goods with different VAT rates supplied together. The pear tree is zero-rated for VAT, while the partridge, as an ornamental bird, would be standard-rated.  
Three French hens When goods of any kind are brought in from the EU and bought by a business that’s registered for UK VAT, the business has to work out and account for the VAT they would have paid if the item had been bought in the UK. 

Five gold rings If you’re buying an antique gold ring or other piece of second-hand jewellery, how would the seller work out VAT?

Six geese a-laying HMRC goes into a serious level of detail on this. The basic rule of thumb is that poultry kept for their meat or their eggs would be zero-rated for VAT, whereas ornamental birds would be standard-rated.

Eight maids a-milking Milkmaids need to live on the farm in order to be able to do their work properly; in order to do the morning milking they have to get up very early, and so it wouldn’t be practical or possible for them to commute. That means that the farmer can provide the milkmaids with living accommodation free of tax and National Insurance. 

Nine drummers drumming A drummer would have to buy his or her costume to perform in.  That might be a kilt, jacket and plaid for a drummer in a pipe band, or a suit for a jazz band drummer, and so on. He or she can then claim tax relief on the cost of that costume, because a costume for a performer is tax-deductible. 

Twelve lords a-leaping What would be the tax implications if these lords a-leapt out of the country? It depends why they’re a-leaping out and for how long.

Friday, November 04, 2016

The FD's assistant may not be quite right for the job

The company personnel department had carefully interviewed thirty-eight people for the job of assistant to the financial director.

The chief executive thought that one candidate - Charles - seemed ideal.

Charles had been to a major public school. Not only was he a qualified accountant, but Charles also had a masters degree in business administration. He seemed fully aware of the latest creative accountancy techniques.

'Charles,' said the chief executive, we've decided to offer you the job. And as you're so well qualified we've decided to start you off on a slightly higher salary than the one advertised. We'll pay you £36,000 a year.

'Thank you,' replied Charles. 'But how much is that per month?

Found on the KEEPERS ACCOUNTANCY website.

Friday, October 28, 2016

How strong is HMRC's case?

Years ago a senior official was talking about HMRC prosecution policy. He mentioned an occasion when he had lost a case and went back to his legal advisers to find out what had gone wrong.

"I thought you'd told me you thought we had a very strong case" he said. "So why did we lose?"

"Aha" said the lawyer, "You asked me what I thought and I told you that I felt that we had a very strong case. That was all you wanted to know.

Had you asked I'd have told you that I also thought the other side had a very strong case too."

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Alligator and the Tax Collector

A man walks into a restaurant with his pet alligator under his arm.

“Do you serve tax collectors?” he asks the barman.

“Of course” says the barman.

“Well” replies the man, “I’ll have a beer, and my alligator will have a tax collector.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tax avoidance schemes - an odd way to define what's legal and what isn't.

It is illegal to avoid telling the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing.    

Sounds weird but it's true. Sort of.

The actual law has had its wording twisted to make it seem funnier. The law actually requires a person to disclose schemes that are deliberately designed to avoid tax which would otherwise be due to HMRC.

Apparently it is an oversimplification of the Tax Avoidance Scheme Regs 2006, S.I. 2006 No 1543.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Rants against Tax Dodgers from The Last Leg

The clip below, from The Last Leg tv show includes some funny rants against those who avoid tax and accountants who promote tax avoidance schemes!

Bad language alert!

Friday, September 30, 2016

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 stands up behind his desk, looks the accoutant straight in the eye and says:
"Mmm. I think you have a serious case of double entry."

Friday, September 23, 2016

David Mitchell's funny explanation of tax avoidance

There are some great quotes in this clip which sees David Mitchell answering questions about tax avoidance during an interview on The Last Leg TV show in 2105.

"Vanilla flavoured. Less than vanilla, unflavoured tax avoidance"

At the other end of the spectrum, "Gary Bartlow's evil flavoured" tax avoidance

Tax avoidance involves "50 shades of grey. And that's not an ice cream flavour anyone wants!"

"Legal loopholes allowing tax avoidance mean the government is “taxing conscience” – the more of a conscience you have, the more you pay – and that isn’t right"

"We're taxing being nice"

Bad language alert in this clip:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Why does this accountant specialise in strippers?

One of the oddest specialisations I've heard an accountant boast about was strippers.

Whereas other accountants might focus on solicitors(!), hospital consultants, charities or any other business sector, his reasons seemed quite logical:

  • They are generally honest 
  • They are high earners with good cashflow 
  • They are quite up front (literally, apparently) 
  • They often have big assets (Can't believe I'm typing this!) 
  • They pay in cash in advance (as they have so much of it) 

Are readers aware of any other less common and vaguely amusing target sectors for accountants looking to specialise?

Friday, September 09, 2016

"Why not have a stupidity tax?"

Taken from Absolutely Fabulous. This is Edwina ranting:
Why not have a stupidity tax and just tax the stupid people?"

Friday, September 02, 2016

"No wonder taxes are high" (sung by Bob Monkhouse)

This is the title of a song performed in a 1958 musical comedy version of Aladdin written especially for US television with a book by S.J. Perelman and music and lyrics by Cole Porter.

There was also a London stage production in 1959 in which a 30 year old Bob Monkhouse played the part of Aladdin. This clip  has him singing the song with co-star Ronald Shiner.

An extract from lyrics follows below:

The Emperor is fond of marble dragons,
So he ordered tons and tons of marble dragons,
His extravagance nobody can deny,
No wonder taxes are high.

In ev'ry room he wants a golden Buddha
And it takes a lot of gold to make a Buddha,
Though to estimate the cost we wouldn't try,

No wonder taxes are high.

Yet we work, work, work
Till our bones are all cracked,
We don't even have a Workman's Compensation act.

His Majesty delights in throwing parties,
So we have to furnish food for all his parties.
When your monarch is a social butterfly,

No wonder taxes are high.

Oh me, oh my!
No wonder taxes are high.

His Grace can only sleep on yellow satin,
Ev'ry night he has a change of yellow satin,
Though we want him to enjoy his hushabye,
No wonder taxes are high.

He likes to juggle emeralds and rubies,
So he cornered all the emeralds and rubies,
His collection is a knockout to the eye,

No wonder taxes are high.

Yet we work, work, work
For a minimum fee,

We don't even get a break to take midmorning tea.

Our master loves to ogle pretty dancers,
He already has a thousand pretty dancers,
But today he commandeered a new supply,

No wonder taxes are high.
Oh me, oh my!
No wonder taxes are high.

He likes to look at fireworks in the ev'ning,
So we're forced to shoot off fireworks ev'ry ev'ning,
And so many that they clutter up the sky,

No wonder taxes are high.

He drinks a foreign drink that's known as brandy,
So a caravan arrived and brought him brandy.
It's too bad his royal throat is always dry,

No wonder taxes are high.

Yet we work, work, work
Till we're covered with grime,

But he wouldn't think of paying us for overtime.

His Highness fairly reeks of heavy perfume
And his concubines adore his heavy perfume.
It's a shame the way they splash it on the guy,
No wonder taxes are high.

Oh me, oh my!
No wonder taxes are high.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Dominic Frisby, 'Let’s Talk about Tax'

I am indebted to Philip Fisher for sharing a review of this 2016 Edinburgh show in Taxation magazine.  Philip's observations include the following about Dominic's show:
  • While tax specialists will know much of what is on offer, they should learn some new facts, whether about the history of tax, the size of our code, now over 10 million words - being 12½ times as many as the bible – or ephemera such as the average telephone wait for HMRC, 47 minutes.
  • He also makes many intelligent observations, for example that if tax gets too high, people merely avoid it using those time-honoured ‘Fs’: fight, flight and fraud. He observes also that HMRC is technically not answerable to parliament but to the Queen (who is technically exempt from funding herself but pays tax on a voluntary basis)
Other reviewers include additional points of note:
  • When he steps onto the stage you can instantly see Frisby’s dressed for money. Suited, booted and topped by a bowler hat, the comedian looks like the quintessential City man. It doesn’t take long to realise the comedian has a compelling interest in cash, and in particular how the government goes about taking ours.
  • His knowledge of tax history is encyclopaedic – the UK window tax of the 17th century and its adverse effect on the population’s health and the Roman’s desire to tax urine (which was apparently a valuable agent in clothes laundering and the prevention of tooth decay) just two amusing examples.
Warning: The video interview with Dominic below talking about the show includes sexual references!

Friday, August 12, 2016

10 alternatives to being the Taxman's 'Customer'

For some years now HMRC (the taxman) has used the word 'customers' to refer to all types of taxpayers and tax credit claimants.  Of course 'customers' normally get a choice as to where they shop so it's not the right word.  

Here are ten alternative, not too serious, descriptions. Do you have any other suggestions?

  1. Slaves
  2. Victims
  3. Codees - Anyone who deals with the tax authorities has to have a code, so that's the common element.
  4. Punters
  5. Suckers 
  6. Cash cows
  7. Mugs
  8. Muggles 
  9. Government financiers
  10. Lemons (as in "squeeze them until the pips squeak")

Friday, August 05, 2016

6 reasons accountants make great friends

  1. They're an asset that never depreciates
  2. They can work out how to split the bill after a meal (and could do so before apps were developed to resolve this important life skill)
  3. Without them, it's an accrual world
  4. You can always count on them
  5. They help you figure life out
  6. They make everything balance and give credit where it's due
With due credit to the AAT community whose online contributions were collated into this video that contains the 6 reasons above - plus a 'scary' 7th point!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Auditors are people too - a poem

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?

Penned by Stephen Brown 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Owl and the Pussycat may well have been into tax avoidance

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

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

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

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

The above analysis was offered in 2009 by Andrew Hubbard, now Editor in Chief of Taxation magazine, when he was newly installed as President of CIOT, after the Chartered Tax Advisers' address on the anniversary of Edward Lear's birthday.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Funny message on gift card for retiring accountant

Message seen on the front of a greeting card given to a tax partner on his retirement from a sizeable firm of accountants:
All I ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Friday, June 24, 2016

New style acronyms for accountants

YAPAs - Young Ambitious Professional Accountants

EWES - Experts With Expensive Style

TAPAS - Top Accountants Planning Awesome Setoffs

MAGIC - Masterful Accountants Generating Instant Credits

TRICKs - Tax Returns that Interest Cute Kittens

CARDS - Clever Accountants Reading Dull Standards

PAULA - People Against the Use of Lousy Acronyms

Friday, June 03, 2016

Stand Up comedian reveals why he gave up accountancy

Indian comedian Kunal Rao starts his set by explaining why he gave up chartered accountancy.

He moves onto other topics after 2 minutes.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Outrageous late payment excuses

This only has a tangential connection with accountancy but still feels worth sharing here. Drawn from a survey conducted by FreeAgent and summarised on AccountingWeb:

  • Can I just buy you a pint and call it quits?
  • Our chief executive is still on his sailing holiday
  • I have been in hospital for 2 weeks to have my tonsils taken out (they hadn’t)
  • My cat is sick
  • My dog ate your invoice
  • Your invoice was unethical
  • I have no money left, but you’ll get what you’re owed if you work on my new project. And move with me to Qatar.
  • You didn’t chase me enough for payment
  • (to a professional photographer) The photograph you took is of me, so I don’t need to pay you
  • I referred you to a friend, so I thought that would mean you wouldn't charge me
Any more?

Friday, May 20, 2016

There are only two types of accountants in the world....

There are more than two types of aphorisms along these lines. Here are some of my faves. Any more?

There are only three types of accountants in the world....
....Those who can count and those who can't.

There are only 10 types of accountants in the world....
.... Those who understand binary and those who don't

There are only two types of accountants in the world....
....Those who walk into a room and say, ‘There you are!’ – and those who say, ‘Here I am!’ ”  (original credited to Abigail Van Buren)

There are only two types of accountants in the world....
.....Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data

Friday, May 06, 2016

What might GAAP stand for?

Strictly speaking GAAP stands for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles but I prefer the suggestion that GAAP is the difference between accounting theory and accounting practice.

Or could it stand for one of the following?

Greatly Anticipated Auditing Performance
Grossly Aggressive Accountant's Punches
Gently Activating Accountant's Pencil
Generally Accidental Accounting Practices

Can you suggest any others?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Does an FD need to keep a close touch on everything?

A UK based Finance Director once reported that he had realised all was not well when he discovered that the company's BMW was actually in Madrid and being used by a prostitute.

Apparently this led to the FD's realisation that the company was not totally committed to traditional corporate governance.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Morton's Fork" - the rock and a hard place options for taxpayers

The expression "Morton's Fork" originates from a policy of tax collection devised by John Morton, who was Lord Chancellor of England in 1487, under the rule of King Henry VII.

Morton's approach was that if the subject lived in luxury and had clearly spent a lot of money on himself, he obviously had sufficient income to spare for the king. Alternatively, if the subject lived frugally, and showed no sign of being wealthy, he must have substantial savings and could therefore afford to give it to the king. These arguments were the two prongs of the fork and regardless of whether the subject was rich or poor, he did not have a favourable choice.

The phrase is rarely used these days as there is a more common analogy when someone has a dilemma and has to choose between two equally unpleasant alternatives. We tend to say that they are either "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" or "Between a rock and a hard place".

Friday, April 15, 2016

Monty Python - The audit

Strangely current despite dating back to pre decimilisation!
NB: Only worth watching through to 1.46. The rest is quite separate.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Fighting off the ladies is half the job

While this t-shirt is self mocking it did make me smile, hence the reason it's on the blog this week.

It's available from TeeSpring.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A quick thinking junior accountant

Some years back a trainee accountant joined the headquarters of a large firm. He was a graduate of a top University and thought rather highly of himself.

On his first day he dialled the canteen and shouted into the phone, “Get me some coffee, quick!”

The voice from the other side responded “You fool, you’ve dialled the wrong extension! Do you know who you are talking to?”

“No”, replied the trainee.

“It’s the Managing Partner, you fool!” The voice shouted back.

The trainee did some quick thinking and asked forcefully, “And do you know who you’re talking
to, you fool?”

“No”, replied the Managing Partner.

“Good”, said the trainee as he hung up.

Just as well this was long before we all had trackable direct dial extension numbers and caller display!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Why are accountants.....?

You know how Google offers you suggestions as to what others have searched for with the same opening words as you have typed in the search box?

Here are some screen shots of what Google suggested for 3 searches starting: "Why are accountants..."

I especially like the fact that there's only one common question starting: Why are accountants always..."

Which is your favourite?

My thanks to David Lewis for prompting me about this, following a similar experiment conducted by Adrian Pearson.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dr Who once did tax returns satire

There was 4 part story called  The Sunmakers broadcast during Tom Baker's time as the Doctor. At the start of the first episode the Doctor encounters a character contemplating suicide because he can't afford to pay his taxes. The Doctor assures him he just needs a good accountant.

Most of the corridors in The Sunmakers were named after UK tax forms (circa 1977), as the story was intended as a satire of contemporary British taxes.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

How valuable is an accountant's experience?

A recent exchange on AccountingWeb made me smile.

I had written an article about how to thrive in your 50s.  I was responding to a letter sent by ICAS to members and which appeared to suggest that the over 50s are over the hill!

One commentator posed the following question by way of analogy:
If you were ever in the unfortunate position of needing brain surgery would you prefer:
A) the whizz kid age 27 who knows computers like the back of his hand? or
B) the 62 year old with many years experience in the game?
This drew the inevitable response from a frustrated small practitioner:
My experience suggests most will opt for:
C) the cheapest butcher. 
I am sure this will resonate with many accountants in practice.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Why is collecting fish like collecting taxes?

A few years back a TV reporter, Jonathan Maitland, explained that the art of angling involves 3 things:
  • Attention to detail;
  • Organisation; and ultimately, sadly,
  • A touch of brutality
"Not unlike the art of tax collecting"

Friday, February 12, 2016

Top five worst tax return expense claims

HMRC has published a list of what they describe as the Top five worst tax return expense claims.

These are, apparently, the five most outrageous personal expenses claims included in 2013-14 Self Assessment tax returns.
  1. The costs for storing Mars Bars overnight in a fridge.
  2. The cost of a pair of flip flops so I don’t have to walk barefoot between my work’s changing and shower rooms.
  3. The costs for my intimate waxing. 
  4. I bought a second hand car to get me from home to work so I didn’t have to walk. 
  5. I purchased my own flat, so I need to claim back the money I spent on the furniture. 
I can't help but wonder how many of these were inspired by reports of claims about the expenses that MPs have claimed in the past!

Friday, February 05, 2016

Why is an income tax return like a girdle?

Q: Why is an income tax return like a girdle?

A: If you put the wrong figure in it, you are likely to get pinched.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What happens when you make a mistake?

A doctor's mistake is buried,
A lawyer's mistake is imprisoned,
A pharmacist's mistake is poisoned,
But, an accountant's mistake is...
....adjusted, corrected and reconciled!

Friday, January 22, 2016

HMRC's lists of worst excuses for late filed tax returns

Each January HMRC release a list which gets wide publicity and nudges late filers to get their tax returns submitted before the filing deadline at the end of the month.

In 2015 the list they released comprised:

  • My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.
  • I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.
  • I fell in with the wrong crowd.
  • I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.
  • Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
  • I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
  • A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.
  • I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.
  • My girlfriend’s pregnant.
  • I was in Australia

  • In 2016, a new list was released, and is just as bad:
    1. My tax papers were left in the shed and the rat ate them 
    2. I’m not a paperwork orientated person
    3. I always relied on my sister to complete my returns but we have now fallen out 
    4. My accountant has been ill 
    5. My dog ate my tax return 
    6. I will be abroad on deadline day with no internet access so will be unable to file 
    7. My laptop broke, so did my washing machine 
    8. My niece had moved in – she made the house so untidy I could not find my log in details to complete my return online 
    9. My husband ran over my laptop 
    10. I had an argument with my wife and went to Italy for 5 years 
    11. I had a cold which took a long time to go
    The list released in 2014 is on this blog here>>>

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    "I live in Brighton, please stop trying to tax me"

    At the end of last year Pete Miller, a tax adviser, bravely took to the stage, along with 4 other professional advisers in Leicester, to perform 5 minutes of stand-up comedy for The Big Difference charity.

    He told a story about how, many years previously, when he was still an Inspector of Taxes, he received a letter:
    Dear Mr Miller.
    Please stop writing to me and asking for tax.
    I live in Brighton.
    You work for the INLAND Revenue.

    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...