Friday, August 11, 2017

The Accountants' alphabet (A-Z)

Instead of the NATO alphabet, accountants are encouraged to adopt the new Accountants' alphabet when spelling things out. So no more Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. Instead we now have:
  • A for Assets
  • B for Balancing
  • C for Capital
  • D for Delete
  • E for Excel
  • F for Finance
  • G for Goodwill
  • H for HMRC
  • I for Insolvency
  • J for Journals
  • K for Kiting
  • L for Liability
  • M for Materiality
  • N for Notes to accounts
  • O for Off-balance sheet
  • P for Profit
  • Q for Qualifications
  • R for Reconciliation
  • S for Support staff
  • T for Tax
  • U for Uncertainties
  • V for Value
  • W for Winding up
  • X for breakfast
  • Y for Yearly
  • Z for Zero-based budgeting

Friday, August 04, 2017

20 songs for accountants going on holiday

The following playlist is drawn from suggestions made by non-accountants on my facebook feed.
There's a distinct monetary theme but some inventive alternatives too.

  1. Money, that's what I want - Flying Lizards
  2. Leaving on a (budget-approved) Jet Plane- John Denver
  3. Ticket to Ride - A nice emailed copy for the accountants - The Beatles
  4. Do you know the way to (reclaim the cost of travel to) San Jose? - Dionne Warwick ACA
  5. The Balance - The Moody Blues
  6. Taxman - The Beatles
  7. Sunny Afternoon- The Kinks ("The taxman's taken all my dough, And left me in my stately home")
  8. We can work it out - The Beatles
  9. Money - Pink Floyd
  10. Colour by Numbers (album) - Culture Club
  11. Money's too tight to mention - Simply (in the) Red
  12. Money for Nothing - Dire Straits
  13. Get up (I feel like Being a Tax Machine) - James Brown ACA
  14. I can't get no tax-isfaction - The Rolling Stones
  15. The Final Countdown - Europe
  16. Chasing Payments - Adele
  17. Money money money - Abba
  18. (Making Tax) Digital - Joy Division
  19. Take the Money and Run - The Steve Miller Band
  20. Price tag - Jessie J
Plus two bonus tracks:
  • A song for January: Under Pressure - Queen
  • My favourite though, suggested by William Buist who knows I'm a bit of an acronymaniac, was: 24 hours to TULSA (Tally Up Long Standing Accounts). 
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this list: Lee Hathaway, Kapil Kapur, Rod Sloane, Penny Haslam,  Mark Wingfield, Michelle Lubzianski, David Lewis, David Hyner, Andy Lopata, Shelley Bridgman, Cindy-Michelle Waterfield, Dave Sumner-Smith, Spyros Melaris, Andrew (Bernie) Bernard, William Buist.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Audit file rock


Another song penned by Accountant Nigel Hughes. This one should be sung to the tune of the Elton John classic, Crocodile Rock:

I remember when we were young,
Me and Susie having so much fun
Audit programme and an ICQ,
I had a battered ford escort and an M&S suit.
But the biggest kick we ever got,
Was doing a thing called the audit file rock.
While other kids were rocking round the clock,
We were Ticking and Bashing to the audit file rock

Chorus
Well audit file rocking is something shocking,
When your feet just can't keep still
I never knew me a better time, and I guess I never will.
In the office 'til late at night,
Trying to get our double entry right,
And audit file rocking was outta sight.

Well the years went by, now I’m an RI
Susie went and left us for a big 4 guy,
Long nights crying by the coffee machine
Worrying 'bout ISAs and the QAD.
But they'll never kill the thrills we got,
Burning up to the audit file rock
Learning fast as the weeks went past
We really thought the audit file rock would last.

Repeat chorus

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

If Accountants were like Star Trek characters

Ahead of the launch of the new Star Trek series, Discovery, I am sharing this list - originally created by Michael Cohn, Editor-in-Chief, WebCPA in 2009.

He had been thinking about how accounting firms could become more like characters from the film franchise. His ten suggestions (anglicised where appropriate) are:


1. Find a weird hand signal that means either, “Live long and prosper,” or “My hand feels cramped from typing all these numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.”
2. Take the firm up to warp factor five, or the speed you generally go about a week before January 31.
3. Raise the deflector shields, especially if HMRC contacts your clients about an investigation.
4. Try the Vulcan mind meld when you can’t understand what your client is trying to tell you about why his children should be counted as a business expense.
5. Appoint a skilled liaison to deal with the Romulans, also known as HMRC.
6. Have Scotty beam you up to the bridge whenever your flight gets delayed and you need to get back to the office right away.
7. Say, “That’s highly illogical,” whenever an inspector challenges one of your client’s deductions.
8. Establish a work/life balance between fighting aliens and making out with scantily clad Venusians.
9. Set your phaser gun on stun when someone complains too much about getting a low tax refund.
10. Tell the managing partner, “I canna do it, Captain, I can’t defy the laws of physics,” if he asks you to prepare more than five tax returns a day.


Friday, July 07, 2017

Who's afraid of this strong woman?


This is an extract from a letter sent by an accountant to the taxman:
"In reply to your letter of the 12th, there is no documentary evidence of partnership, but when I called at my client's premises to complete the Tax Return his wife was present.  
When I asked if the business belonged to him, his wife immediately answered in the most forthright terms that it was their joint property and I personally was sufficiently convinced not to pursue the matter further. 
I take some pride in my physical condition, but I know my limitations. If you are still not convinced I will take you along in my car to see Mrs X with pleasure, but I will wait outside for you."
Recorded in Peter Vaines and Roger Nuttall's book "The Bottom Line"

Friday, June 30, 2017

Imagine if unqualified accountants were like street walkers....

This video references Street Accountants suggesting they have taken over parts of London performing accounting services out in the open for everyone to see. It's actually an Australian parody.

To give you an idea of what to expect it includes the quotes:

I give my client what real accountants can't.

I'm a street accountant, I work the streets.

How about a little numbers action?

I've got certain financial needs and they can service them for me.

Used calculators, dirty balance sheets, sharpened pencils all left lying around.

The police can't do anything unless they catch them performing accounting services on the street

I've left my chartered accountant for ever. I want to be your only client.



Friday, June 23, 2017

What's 2 + 2? Ten different professionals explain

What's 2 + 2? Different professionals might respond as follows:

Engineer: The answer lies between 3.98 and 4.02

Estate agent: I will sort that out once you agree to pay me 1% of the answer.

Mathematician: In 3 hours I can demonstrate my proof that will reveal the answer everyone has been searching for.

Logician: This problem is solvable.

Dentist: If you don't brush them properly there will only be 3.

Social worker: I don't know the answer but I'm glad we discussed the question.

Lawyer: In the case of Nerd vs HMRC, 2+2 was held to be 4

Politician: That's not the real question.

Market trader: Are you buying or selling?

Accountants: What do you want it to be?


Monday, June 19, 2017

Nine things only employed accountants will understand


  1. People never really understand what your job really involves
  2. The colour scheme on your spreadsheet is actually important.
  3. It's infuriating when a balance sheet doesn't balance.
  4. Having the auditors on site is a pain in the neck.
  5. No one wants to know when your cash flow shows no flow.
  6. Everyone thinks you can help them pay less tax.
  7. Friends only call when they want financial advice.
  8. New versions of microsoft excel are really exciting.
  9. Everything in life can be reduced to debits and credits
Do add comments re: anything else you think is missing from this list.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Are the police working for HMRC now?

A man was driving away from the tax office when all of a sudden he had to swerve to avoid a box falling off the lorry in front.

Seconds later a policeman pulled him over for reckless driving.

As the policeman starting writing the ticket he noticed the box was full of nails and tacks.

 "I had to swerve or I'd have run over those and blown my tyres!" protested the driver.

 "Ok", replied the officer, ripping up the ticket, "but I'm still bringing you in."

 "What for?!" retorted the man.

 "Tacks evasion", answered the policeman.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Withheld tax awards for large, medium-sized and small firms

Awards not presented at the most recent Tolley's Taxation Awards Ceremony included:

Large firm
  • Longest name for a tax team in a large firm
  • Hardest working manager whose partner takes credit for their work
  • Most widely dispersed tax 'team' in a large firm
Medium sized firm
  • Highest percentage lock-up in a medium sized firm
  • Most imaginative disclosure on a tax return by a medium sized firm
  • Longest meeting with HMRC in a medium sized firm
  • Most fee notes for tax advice given to one client in one year, in a medium sized firm
  • Fastest integration of newly merged firm with fewest staff losses
Small firm
  • Most engaged twitter account in the name of a small firm (never awarded - too few entries)
  • Highest number of staff per partner in a small firm
  • Best reasonable excuse for a late filed tax return by a small firm
Individual awards
  • Most obscure tax qualifications
  • Most pedantic tax author
  • Least qualified Treasury minister
  • Tax smartarse of the year
And one you wouldn't want to win:
  • Worst client toilet in a small firm

Friday, May 19, 2017

This one is for American accountants only...

An accountant is talking to the young child of one of his friends and says, "Do you know what I do?'

"Daddy says you're a CPA."
"That's right. Did he tell you what CPA stands for?"
"Well, he says you're a Complete Pain in the Arse."

Friday, May 12, 2017

Three approaches to extracting confessions from taxpayers

Before everyone was merged into HMRC, the Inland Revenue, Contributions Agency, and Customs & Excise were all trying to prove they were the best at extracting confessions from taxpayers.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer decided to give them a test. He released a rabbit into a forest and each of them had to catch it.

 The Contributions Agency went first. They placed animal informants throughout the forest and questioned all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations, they concluded that rabbits do not exist.

 The Revenue went next. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit, and they made no apologies. The rabbit had it coming.

 Finally Customs went in. They came out two hours later with a badly beaten bear.

The bear was yelling: "Okay! Okay! I'm a rabbit! I'm a rabbit!"

Friday, April 28, 2017

Two work experience lessons from accountants

One - It all looks so easy
One firm took a 15 year old girl from the local secondary school on work experience for a week a couple of weeks ago (the daughter of a client).

Yesterday, the client phoned them and told them they were leaving. Asked if they were going to a different accountant they said no, their daughter was going to look after their affairs from now on as she had learned how to do the work during her week of work experience!!

Two - They learn so much
Another accountant reports having received a CV from a young lady (aged 17) who, during a month with a local accountancy firm, apparently took over the role of payroll manager, conducted an audit without supervision and seems to now be competent in preparing self assessment and corporation tax returns.

The accountant who saw the CV did not reply because he did not think he would be able to afford the salary of a genius, saying "No doubt she will appear in the next series of The Apprentice".

Credit due to @mwngiol and Tosie who shared these stories in a thread on AccountingWeb in 2011

Friday, April 21, 2017

Is the glass really half....?

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the accountant, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

(There are also those realists who don't waste time describing the glass; they just want to drink whatever it contains)

And the older accountants who stop the debate and simply add whisky to the glass.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Advising fishermen on business structure

When the fisherman asked the accountant "How should I set up my business?", the accountant replied “As a sole trader of course.”

The fisherman replied "Sounds like a good plaice to start!"

I'm here all week....

Friday, April 07, 2017

Contraception and tax investigations


Now there's a combination of ideas you don't come across every day.

A hunky accountant and an attractive lady tax inspector have developed a strong attraction for each other such that they arrange to go off to a hotel to satisfy their lust.

When the subject of contraception is raised the accountant gets a first hand lesson in the difference between neglect, wilful default and fraud - as explained by the tax inspector:

It would be neglect if you said you'd forgotten to bring one;
It would be wilful default if you refused to wear one that I've brought with me; and
It would be fraud if you told me that you've had the op!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Why should we assume that everyone knows this?

Many years ago my (then) teenage son was field testing an early version of a temporary website intended to encourage young people to choose a career in tax. It included a list of the various professional bodies - which were identified only by their initials.

My son asked the question: "What's a Kyott? an I - cow, an Acker and an Eye-Kas?"

All those involved with the project used abbreviations all the time. But we'd forgotten that many in our audience would have no idea what the letters stood for. Following the initial feedback we spelled them all out in full.

More recently someone asked the then President of the Chartered Institute of Taxation why they preferred to be known as "See, Eye, Oh, Tee" rather than "See-ott". The emphatic reply apparently was that "See-ott sounds terrible"Indeed. But better than "Ky-ott" which was how my son had tried to pronounce the letters!

The other words in the title above refer to ICAEW, ACCA and ICAS.
Postscript: A related story I posted on this blog last year: The same professional surname

Friday, March 24, 2017

How often do HMRC get messages like this?

Message apparently left on local HMRC office answerphone:

"Hello - there's a minicab company operating from Ottingham Road, Pinner that has loads of unroadworthy cabs. You should take a look"

Doh! HMRC is the Inspector of Taxes NOT Taxis !

Friday, March 17, 2017

Fifty ways to please the taxman

Accountant Nigel Hughes has crafted this topical variation on the Paul Simon classic. It's a fun ditty in itself and even cleverer if you can recall the original tune as you read it!

Your problem is all inside your head she said to me
The answer is easy if you do it digitally
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be 50 ways to please the taxman

She said I hate to see you blundering in this fog
Tax really doesn’t need to be such a slog
I’d like to end your love affair with analogue
There must be fifty ways to please the taxman

Fifty ways to please the taxman

Just get on the web Fred
Click on your mouse Klaus
Get up in the cloud Howard
Just zap it to me
This is the key, Lee
You don't need double entry
Do it on line Brian
And set yourself free
It's a new day Ray
Just think what you'll save Dave
Take a quick pic Rick
And listen to me
You'll never believe Steve
What you can do if you trust me
Just take a quick snap Jack
And set yourself free
She said paper records are really such a drag
In cardboard boxes or a Tesco carrier bag
I said I appreciate that but don't you think some clients might just gag

On the 50 ways

She said I think you should just leave it all to me
I know very soon, you’ll fall in love with MTD
And then she kissed me and I realised I could charge a quarterly fee
There must be 50 ways to please the taxman


Friday, March 10, 2017

Was this accountant really a coward?

An accountant is sitting alone in a country pub sipping a beer and reviewing some accounts which he has out on the table in front of him.

A bunch of bikers roar up to the pub and when then go inside they immediately begin harassing the accountant. He tries to ignore them as they insult him and make fun of his glasses, the accounts and the fact that he isn't responding to their taunts.

The accountant continues to ignore the bikers who then begin poking at him and getting physical. One of the bikers pours beer on his head. He does nothing. Another pokes him with a pool stick. He does nothing. Another sweeps his accounts off the table onto the floor and stamps all over them covering the papers in mud and grime. Still he does nothing.

Eventually the accountant pays for his drinks and leaves the bar.

One of the bikers turns to the bartender and says, "Not much of a man, was he?" sneering at the cowardice of the accountant who did not defend himself against a bunch of guys who outnumbered him and were bigger than him.

And the bartender turns to the biker and says, "He's not much of a driver, either. He just rode over all of your bikes."

Friday, March 03, 2017

Why would the taxman believe this explanation?

During a tax investigation an inspector from HMRC asks the taxpayer how he managed to afford such a luxurious holiday villa with such little income.  The taxpayer responded with this story:
"While out fishing last summer, I caught a large golden fish. When I took it off the hook, the fish opened its mouth and said that he was a magical fish. This magical fish promised me that if I threw him back into the sea he would reward me with the most luxurious villa I had ever seen. After thinking about it for a moment, I said "OK" and threw the magic fish back into the sea. When I walked back up from the sea I could see the villa, just as the fish had promised."
The Inspector laughed and asked how the taxpayer expected to prove such an unbelievable story?

The taxpayer said "Well, you can see the villa, can't you?"

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bob Newhart's quotes about accounting

American funny man Bob Newhart originally trained to be an accountant.

He explains that when attempting reconciliations he reckoned that:
"as long as you got within two or three bucks of it, you were all right. But that didn’t catch on … At the end of the day I had to balance the petty cash with the slips—every time you give out money you had to get a slip. It had to balance. Well, I’d be there for three or four hours tying to figure out where the last dollar or dime went to. So finally I’d just take it out of my pocket and I’d put it in. If there were two dollars leftover, I’d take it out … And they told me you can’t do that. You gotta find it. I said, “you’re paying me five dollars an hour to find two cents—it doesn’t make sense.” So I wasn’t a very good accountant."
His 1988 biography quotes Newhart as saying that if he hadn’t taken a gamble with comedy he would still be an accountant:
“Keep in mind, when I started in the late fifties, I didn’t say to myself, ‘Oh, here’s a great void to fill—I’ll be a balding ex-accountant who specializes in low-key humor.’ That’s simply what I was and that’s the direction my mind always went in, so it was natural for me to be that way.” 
Other accountancy related quotes attributable to Bob include:
I worked in accounting for two and a half years, realized that wasn't what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and decided I was just going to give comedy a try. 
Probably the best advice I ever got in my life was from the head of the accounting department, Mr. Hutchinson, I believe at the Glidden Company in Chicago, and he told me, 'You really aren't cut out for accounting. 
I've been told to speed up my delivery when I perform. But if I lose the stammer, I'm just another slightly amusing accountant. 
The truth is, I look like an accountant, which was my trouble. I looked the part of an accountant, so I’d get hired as an accountant even though I got my degree in management.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Accounting films #MakeAfilmAccounting

Following the hashtag #MakeAfilmAccounting on twitter revealed the following fun suggestions:

A long time ago in an accountant’s office far, far away…was the movie: The Annual Return of the Jedi
@sageuk

Mad Tax
@Muffhouse

The classic accounting tale of a man falsely imprisoned – The Accountant of Monte Cristo
@sageuk

 Up close and personal tax
@mrjoemcfadden

The Shawshank Tax Redemption
@sageuk

 In a world where everyone is an accountant, you should watch the 50's tax classic, Rebel Without a Clause
@sageuk

Vatman returns
@bookmarklee

 Love Actuarilly
@sageuk

 Saving Mr Bankrupt
 @EarlGreyDecaf

The Accountant of Monte Cristo
@sageNAmerica

Tax Driver
@sageNAmerica

Raiders of the profit and loss ark
@sageNAmerica

Cashablanca
@sageNAmerica

Friday, February 10, 2017

Daft letters to the taxman

The following extracts from letters received by the taxman were first published in Taxation magazine in 1958*
"I received your income tax form, but had to go into hospital an hour afterwards"
"I have not been living with my husband for several years, and have much pleasure in enclosing his last will and testament"
"Please correct this assessment. I have not worked for the past 3 months, as I have broken my leg. Hoping you will do the same."
"My husband is in HM Forces. I have no children. Trusting it will have your attention."
"Please send me a claim form, as I have had a baby. I had one before, but it got dirty and I burnt it."
"My husband died on 3 November. is there any post-war credit due, as I understand that a person has to die before receiving any benefit?"
"I cannot pay the full amount at the moment as my husband is in hospital. As soon as I can I will send you the remains."
"I have to inform you that my mother in law passed away after receiving your form on 22 November. Thanking you."
"Thank you for explaining my income tax liability. You have done it so clearly that I almost understand it."
*These extracts from letters were apparently referenced in a speech given by a retired Inspector of Taxes, Mr AEA Elston, while reminiscing at a meeting of the Oldham Rotary Club, and reported in the Oldham Evening Chronicle. The 1958 report in Taxation magazine was republished in December 1996.

Who Says Accountants Are Boring? Not WithumSmith+Brown


Friday, February 03, 2017

Crazy business expense claims

HMRC has published a list of what they claim to be the most outlandish expenses that customers tried to offset against business profits:
  1. Holiday flights to the Caribbean
  2. Luxury watches as Christmas gifts for staff - from a company with no employees
  3. International flights for dental treatment ahead of business meetings
  4. Pet food for a Shih Tzu ‘guard dog’
  5. Armani jeans as protective clothing for painter and decorator
  6. Cost of regular Friday night ‘bonding sessions’ - running into thousands of pounds.
  7. Underwear - for personal use
  8. A garden shed for private use - plus the costs of the space it takes up in the garden
  9. Betting slips
  10. Caravan rental for the Easter weekend.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The farmer's accountant - in rhyme

He sits at his desk
With his horn-rimmed specs
Doing sums on a calculator
And come rain or shine
You know bloody fine
There's a bill to pay sooner or later.
He adds and subtracts
And works out your tax
Messing about with the figures.
You've done fairly well
So how in the hell
Is that overdraft still gettin' bigger?
Those accounts are too much
It's all double dutch
So you 'phone up for him to explain.
But his office PA says 'haven't you heard'
He's away in his office in Spain."

- Henry Brewis in the Farming Press. As reported in 'The Bottom line' by Vaines and Nuttall

Friday, January 20, 2017

Money, money, money - quotes

"There's money. And then there's MY money"
- Anonymous client to accountant about funding a forthcoming tax bill

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons"
- Woody Allen

"I can't afford to die; I'd lose too much money"
- George Burns

"One of the mysteries of human conduct is why adult men and women are ready to sign documents they have not read, at the behest of salesmen they don't know, binding them to pay for articles they do not want, with money they do not have."
- Gerald Hurst,  

"Nothing is as irritating as the fellow who chats pleasantly to you while he's overcharging you."
- Kin Hubbard

"I haven't reported my missing credit card to the police because whoever stole it is spending less than my wife."
- Ilie Nastase

Friday, January 13, 2017

Other income - how to explain this one?

Back in the day when we completed tax returns by hand, an inspector of taxes noted an unusual entry for 'other income' on a tax return she was examining.

In the space to explain a zero figure the taxpayer had written "F. All."

The Inspector wrote to the taxpayer suggesting that this was not appropriate language to use on what was a legal document.

The taxpayer responded by explaining that the Inspector had misunderstood. "I could not fit the words "Family Allowance' in the limited space available."

The Inspector wrote back pointing out that there was no requirement to enter details of Family Allowance on tax returns. The taxpayer then responded, that as regards his other income, this really was F*** All!"

Friday, January 06, 2017

Cuts cause extra tax - poem

This was one of the winning entries in a limerick competition run by Taxation magazine*

The Chancellor spoke to the nation.
And we were all filled with elation.
but the tax cuts proposed.

Were swiftly exposed 
as a myth by the scribes in Taxation


* This entry was written by David Norton. The competition results were published in December 1999!