Grumpy Accountant

Who, or rather what, are these people?

“The prime minister’s adviser on enterprise, Lord Young, has told the cabinet that the economic downturn is an excellent time for new businesses to boost profits and grow because labour is cheap, the Observer can reveal.”

It doesn’t need me to point out that our democracy is under constant threat from unelected individuals but this first paragraph of an article in today’s Observer really stuck in my throat.

Sure we need healthy businesses as part of any economic revival but surely we also need a population that can afford to buy from those businesses, the other side of the equation?  How on God’s earth does actively promoting the benefits of low wages – and ignoring the needs of the electorate at large – achieve both these needs?

You might think it but I couldn’t possibly comment on whether this is just another rung in the ladder towards the impoverishment of 99% of our population so that business can make more profit.  

Pure, unadulterated greed on top of economic illiteracy would be my take.



12/05/2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HMRC tackling the tax gap? Don’t make me laugh…or cry

I share Richard Murphy’s view of professional responsibilities as being that of keeping my clients as free of grief from HMRC and Companies House as I possibly can. In turn, that often entails telling clients what they can’t legally do.

I have recently had to tell a client who was forced into a service company by their employer that IR35, with all its expensive consequences, most definitely applied. Ultimately, because another 20+ of this person’s colleagues are handled by an unqualified accountant who chooses to ignore IR35, my now former client decided to join that group.

I don’t like IR35 because it lets employers do pretty much what they want with their employees (oh, these burdensome employment rights!), leaving the employees to subsidise the previous employer’s NIC. But IR35 remains the law of the land so my clients need to know, and are told, the implications of ignoring this law.

My problem is that HMRC shows no visible sign of giving a toss whether or not this law is complied with, thereby casting me, and those who share my view of this situation, in the role of a Jeremiah prepared to tell clients that they need to pay more tax for fear of the potential consequences.

Of itself, I’m not overly concerned about the situation I’ve described in terms of its impact on me. What does concern me though is that, if HMRC does not or cannot enforce tax law generally, there is very little incentive, beyond professional ethics, for the accounting profession to enforce it for them if it is going to risk its client base by so doing.

Indeed, this is perhaps the reason why the Big 4 became so heavily, and in my view unprofessionally, involved in aggressive tax avoidance, ie they decided long ago that tax law was ripe for attack precisely because it has been, and can only continue to be given the continual decline in HMRC’s personnel, so inadequately defended by HMRC.

08/05/2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s so easy to target the weak

Dave and the boys have just told us that they plan to reduce incapacity benefit by £25 for those found to be fit for work but unwilling to do so.     Doubtless, Gordon and the gang will match this policy some time soon, even though they’ve already started the process.

We’re told that it will cost £600 million to get “shirkers” back to work.    Simple arithmetic, £600 million divided by £25 a head, says that 2.4 million “shirkers” will need to get back to work just to break even, much less yield cost savings.

Now consider this; there are 2.6 million people claiming incapacity benefit.    Simple arithmetic says that 2.4 million “shirkers” represent 92% of total claimants.    That’s what we’re asked to believe.    Quite by chance, I bumped into an acquaintance, a medical consultant, last night.    He told me that he had been actively involved in the government’s Welfare to Work programmes, advising on how claimants could be helped back to work.    I asked him if he knew the official estimate of “shirkers” claiming incapacity benefit.    The answer?   4%! That’s just over 100,000 or, to put it another way, a potential saving of £2.5 million to offset against the cost of the programme.

If you can hold your nose long enough to ignore for a moment the callousness of cutting sick and depressed people’s weekly benefits by £25 to make savings, while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to rein in the robber mentality of so many of the wealthiest, or even if you don’t find the proposal as stinky as I do, why would you want to support such a duff financial proposal that adds to debt rather than reduces it?

And where are 2.4 million new jobs coming from?

And, while I understand completely the desirability of stopping cheats from claiming benefits we can’t afford to pay, are there not more immediately deserving targets such as the bankers and financial “engineers” and their legions of highly paid advisers who, having completely buggered our finances, national and personal, are said to be too important to be chastised in any meaningful way?

Where, oh where, are the politicians/leaders prepared to take aim at real targets instead of largely defenceless people, disabled by long term physical and/or mental health issues?

PS   If you’re lucky enough not to suffer from a long term disability, be grateful.      As a friend said to me yesterday “there are, absolutely, none so blind, none so ignorant of what is going on around them, as those who have neither experience of disability, nor compassion for those weaker than themselves, nor any thought that it could happen to them”.

07/10/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

If you want to understand…..

….why what most know as tax havens do such terrible damage to the weakest, why they are a blight on all but the few who gain from their existence, Secrecy Jurisdictions backs up its explanations with hard data.

If this blog helps only one person understand why the world would be a happier, better place without secrecy jurisdictions, I will be proud to have helped…..although I hope it will be many more than that.

07/10/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One of iGoogle’s quotes for today

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward – Franklin D. Roosevelt.     Love it!

17/09/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We need political leadership, not appeals to our fear

After my rant the other day, here’s a far more eloquent description of why this country so desperately needs political leadership.

17/09/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What happepened to integrity?

I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to become a Chartered Accountant.    I have been proud to have the opportunity to uphold, to the best of my ability, what I believe that qualification, above all else, stands for, namely integrity.

It therefore saddens me greatly that some of the most high profile of my fellow CA’s do not appear to share my focus on integrity.     My perception of what was reported this past weekend about the role that CA’s played in the MG Rover debacle is that those CA’s involved have sold out on integrity, basically providing services of little value but great damage to our society.

This episode calls to mind something I took on board at a conference 3 or 4 years ago.    The speaker asked the question:  “Why would you take on a client you didn’t like?” – the purpose of the question being to highlight the fact that a difficult personal relationship could so easily be reflected in a difficult professional relationship.    He went on to say:  “Isn’t doing that somewhat akin to the oldest profession?”.

Practitioners of the oldest profession are, I believe, forced into that profession mainly because it is their only means of survival.     It seems to me that the only possible motivation for my fellow professional accountants selling services that cause profound consequential damage, personal greed, is much worse than prostitution.    I object equally profoundly.

14/09/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let’s get together

While I’m more than aware that anger is seldom a winning strategy, what are we left with when none of our political parties seem willing to sense, much less act on, the mood of the electorate?

The Conservatives, ably assisted by the inaccurately named Taxpayers Alliance, want to cut off recovery at the knees by focussing on debt repayment instead of economic stimulus, Lib Dems seem to want to focus on dirty tricks in local politics and, worst of all, Labour sits on its hands, paralysed with indecision and fear that it can’t win any argument.   Meanwhile, UKIP and the BNP – no, I’m not bracketing them together politically – exploit what the main parties aren’t doing in order to pick up dissident votes.

Our politics have become nothing but a quest for power for power’s sake instead of a desire to achieve something worthwhile.    None of the parties appear to have either desire or stomach for confronting real problems, principally the way in which money has displaced any notion of value.   They truly know the price of everything and the value of nothing.    As a direct result, plain and simple greed rules our lives totally unchallenged in any meaningful way.

How can any rationale human being justify or tolerate a state of affairs where;

  • the banking system is allowed to become so dominant, so central to our economy that, despite its more or less total responsibility for our economic woes, it dictates to the rest of the population that it is above regulation, that the people who got us into this mess continue to be worthy of grotesque incomes while everyone else pays the price of their folly and greed?
  • corporate greed, such as British Airways revealing a few weeks ago that it had not actually paid pension contributions to its employee pension fund and was being “forced” to renege on mere commitments to pay those contributions, goes unhindered and unchecked while its pensioners, current and future, pay the price?
  • personal greed, most recently the revelations about the MGRover 4, or is it 5, does not lead to any attempt to pursue and recover ill-gotten gains?
  • people who live in this country and are pretty much forced to pay their share are obliged to live with the fact that extremely wealthy foreigners pay little or nothing due to their special, non-domiciled, status for fear, totally unproven, that the privileged few might leave our shores;our population, what makes our country tick, sinks further and further into the abyss of inequality, where the rich grow richer and the poor poorer?

The standard bearers of the status quo say that we are individually responsible for ourselves while conveniently ignoring that the status quo is what makes individual responsibility so difficult for so many people.    How can the laid off MGRover worker be individually responsible while a handful of individuals are allowed to behave in their own interests even when that behaviour results in literally thousands losing their jobs?

Those same standard bearers suggest that we’re all greedy, that there’s no such thing as society, quietly ignoring evidence that, as human beings, we tend towards acting collectively, not individually; if that wasn’t the case, why then does commerce play so heavily on must-have goods and services, the fact that we want to keep up with the Joneses by having the latest mobile phone, the latest LCD television or the latest cool brand?

Unequivocally, I believe that most of our people, whatever their particular political persuasion, are stronger together than they are individually.   But who will represent this vast majority?

Not Labour, it seems, who, despite their very real achievement in leading the way by saving the banking system and stimulating the economy, lie frozen in their bunker, unable or unwilling to articulate much less propose answers that appeal to the majority.

Not the Conservatives, dressed in the Emperor’s new clothes of grand policies with little of substance behind them, who alone among Western economies believe that repaying debt is better value than making sure that as few people as possible are terminally damaged by the hardship and consequential disillusionment that unemployment inevitably entails.

Not the Lib Dems, who, despite the good sense of Vince Cable, have had so little to say lately.

But what depresses me most is my own failure.   I am ashamed to be part of a very fortunate generation who have sleepwalked into this nightmare.    It’s on our watch that greed has been granted priority over all else.    We’ve enjoyed life chances most of our children probably never will; many of us had opportunities to improve our wealth and status, to buy our own homes, to benefit from the windfall of nightmarish increases in property prices, to ignore the perils of climate change.  What a terrible mess we leave as an inheritance for our children.     The least we owe them is to make our own small noises that together, ie collectively, could become a very loud noise that no prospective government can ignore.

14/09/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

But on further reflection……

….the joke in my previous post makes me absolutely fume because “Venture Capitalism” defines so clearly why we’re in the economic mess we are.

22/08/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bovine Economic Theory

Came across this today.  It tickled me.

SOCIALISM: You have 2 cows;  you give one to your neighbour.

COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

BUREAUCRATISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, then throws the milk away…

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

VENTURE CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy political leverage, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.


AN AMERICAN CORPORATION: You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

A BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of a Democracy….

21/08/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment