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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")

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.....Addendum

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 …

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:…

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 …

If accountants featured on the cover of Vogue

Cartoon by Neil Kerber

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.

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.

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 …

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!

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...

The Problem Clients

Almost every accountant who completes self-assessment tax returns will recognise the following three archetypal clients:

Kara Earabahg – She saves everything up for you and lets you have it in a big plastic bag. You or your staff have to work through a load of irrelevant papers to identify the data that is relevant to the tax return. And sometimes you wonder if you’ve found it all.

Ian Complete – He never sends over everything you need. Typically he forgets to provide details of his pension contributions, gift aid donations and sundry allowable business deductions.

Lars Minit – He ignores all your requests and prompts. He gets you everything you need only just before the filing deadline and has faith in your ability to ensure he avoids late filing penalties.

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.

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 …

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?

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 t…

Just imagine: Fisher Price Waterhouse

What other games might they produce?

Spotted on the AAT facebook page

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’.

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)

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…

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".

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 MosesA 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 – Alikely target- by Peter ArrowsmithThe sanctity of the Upper Tax Tribunal by – Colin BishoppIrish Tax Justice – by Richard MurphyA few drinks in the Arctic – by Fran LagerbergThings are not Black and White – by Jonathan SchwarzVAT is like a rabbit – by Neil WarrenTax is not ageing – by Ian YoungBatting for IHT reliefs- by Matthew Hu…

The truth about being an accountant

With due credit to Accountants Armstrong & Co who posted a link to this on twitter

Not sure how an accountant would do this....

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.&…

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."

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

"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?

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]...is one that can be very easily countered with a ninja move. For the common and logical defence of tax avoidance schemes....is that they are...PERFECTLY LEGAL" "In…

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.

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…

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 …

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…

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)

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'…

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 toni…

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…

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.

Question:
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

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…

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.

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.
@shipsandpigs

I love how you know so much about my expenses. When did I hire you as my accountant?
@fl0ralm0ral

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

"Daddy, do I need to like file taxes?" "No sweetie. I took care of that" #BestDaddyEver" love my accountant dad
@21inaBunkBed

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
@premapadma


3 weird US tax deductions

In Alabama, you can still deduct $1,000 for building a radioactive fallout shelter. In Arkansas, blind combat veterans may buy a new car every two years tax free. 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).

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.

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 a…

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.DISCLAIMERS, RENUNCIATIONS AND IN GENERAL DENIAL OF EVERYTHINGDespite 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…

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.

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 penal…

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.

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 instrumentsMustache wax and weightless conditioning …

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)

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 …

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 Ka…

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 …

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 th…

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)

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