Letters – 2 April

Small practice bureaucracy

I noted in the article by Sarah Deeks (Accountancy Age, 19 March, ‘Leader’), of her concern that small practices would be unable to attract sufficiently talented people in the future.

The problem is already there, for no competent, business-minded, newly qualified, would dream of going into practices with all their overwhelming bureaucracy, form-filling and regulatory controls.

The most competent of the newly qualifieds leave the profession for the business world where their abilities can be far more adequately used, rather than spending their time in a professional office filling forms and reporting on their clients, be it to the Inland Revenue, Joint Monitoring Unit or the Department of Trade & Industry.

JF Peters, St Peter Port, Guernsey

Inconsistency loses respect

It was interesting to read Robert Maas (Accountancy Age, 12 March, page 8) questioning the cash-basis anomaly.

Student accountants are often taught that it is more important to be consistent than accurate. But the Treasury and the Inland Revenue are regularly inconsistent when attempting to raise taxes.

For example, the 4% cost of living increase awarded to the public sector is to be eroded because of the country’s cashflow problems. Thus 2% will be paid in cash in April and 2% in December. But surely the balance to be paid in December should then be backdated to April, or it is no longer a 4% award but a move towards cash accounting?

Another recent example of anomalies is my argument with the Revenue that certain expenditure being disallowed is, in fact, allowed for other companies in our sphere of trading; but I was told we could not cite other companies as precedents where they have been given such allowable expenses.

Yet when I attempted later to give clear reasons as to why such expenses should be allowed I was informed that ‘this would provide an undesirable precedent which could be used by other companies operating in your sphere of trading’.

Is it any reason why we are losing respect for those using such conflicting arguments?

Dr Anthony Field, London EC2

Symptomatic of dyslexia?

Penelope Feeney (Accountancy Age, 19 March, ‘Letters’) falls into the common trap of assuming all dyslexics share common symptoms. Would that I had the confidence to develop such a conviction from so little evidence.

I’ve been an accountant for some 35 years, and dyslexic for longer (though I didn’t know it at the time), and can even provide references from people who think I may not be all that bad an accountant.

However, I would happily endorse her view that ‘they’re all bright’ – even on such scanty evidence – and add that they are also charming, tactful, self-effacing and modest.

Alec Sandison FCCA,

Codicote, Herts

Accountants can be dyslexic

As a 45-year-old dyslexic with 23 years behind me as a qualified accountant and two dyslexic daughters, I feel that I must point out the meticulous recording and analysis of figures is not the heart of accountancy but the heart of bookkeeping.

A good accountant is somebody who knows what figures mean rather than just how to record them.

Looking at my bookshelf in front of me in the office, few of the books have anything much in the way of numbers whereas an awful lot have legislation. Through overcoming the difficulties with reading associated with dyslexia, it has made the reading and understanding of legislation and so on actually easier because of the sheer concentration needed to read it in the first place.

Currently, the only time I am aware of my dyslexia is when my secretaries complain about my hand-drafted letters, my inability to memorise telephone numbers and the complete inability to add or subtract more than two numbers without a calculator.

Intelligence coupled with the ability to work round the problems presented by dyslexia will make for a far better accountant than numerically uncoupled from a high IQ – which makes for a good bookkeeper.

Tom Burton, London SE6

Can’t see wood from the trees

I do not claim to be an expert in computing affairs, but I just don’t understand the great furore about the transition from 23:59, 31 December 1999 to 00:00, 1 January 2000.

Cannot the automatic change from ’99’ to ’00’ be overridden by targeting programming to read ‘2K’ instead of ’99’. The following year could then revert from ‘2K’ to ’01’, and so on?

No doubt I am being altogether too naive – or is it the ‘experts’ cannot see the wood for the trees?

W J Price FCA, Bournemouth, Dorset

No spirit for our profession

I have spent more than 40 years in the profession and have never written a letter to any magazine. I am prompted to respond to Lawrence Fenton’s letter (Accountancy Age, 5 March, ‘Letters’).

The ‘honourable profession’ that Mr Fenton refers to does not really exist any more. There is no public spirit and our critics are right to remind us of that. Most firms are only interested in fees and show little interest in public welfare.

Our institutes, alas, are driven by the requirements of the Big Six and the grandeur of their chief executives. Messrs Cousins and Mitchell are right to refer to them as ‘trade associations’.

Mr Fenton may not like the truth but the same is clearly acknowledged in the Tricker, Worsley, Gerrard, Swinson, and many other reports.

Rather than silencing critics we should be encouraging them as only they can help us think about the future direction of the profession (or what remains of it).

Unlike Mr Fenton, I do not take exception to Mr Cousin’s article (Accountancy Age,26 February, page 19). Having thoroughly examined the Companies Act 1985, I cannot find any Section which states the auditor’s responsibility ends with the mere signing of an audit report.

In my opinion, the auditing standard encourages an unprofessional attitude.

Derek Simmons, Felixstowe, Suffolk

Getting rude in the board room

I was amused by the Colin cartoon this week (Accountancy Age, 26 March, ‘Taking Stock’), but whatever was going on in the office behind him?

Reminds me of a story I heard about a partner in a small accountancy firm. He returned to his office unexpectedly one evening and found his partner in flagrante delicto with the tax manager on the board room table.

He couldn’t get rid of his partner because he couldn’t afford to buy out his share. He couldn’t sack the tax manager as her knowledge of their clients was irreplacable.

So, in a brilliant gesture of defiance, he sold the board room table.

Neil Goulder FCA, financial controller,

Mayfair Entertainment Group

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