Letters – 5 March

Illustrating contempt?

I read the article ‘All singing to the same hymn sheet’ (19 February 1998) with some interest, but could not help noticing that all the hymn sheets in the accompanying illustration had the debits and credits on the wrong sides.

Is this merely to emphasise the author’s contempt for conventional accountancy, or merely to keep us poor old beancounters on our toes?

Gordon Williams

Bean there, done that

The expression ‘beancounter’ is not one designed to flatter accountants.

It is meant as a mild insult. Once in a while, its use may be appropriate in your Taking Stock column. Your colleague who writes the column ought to bear in mind that when used every week it gets rather tedious.

If he or she were working on the Saffron Walden Reporter I doubt that he would put in an Essex girl reference every week, and I am sure he would value his teeth too much to write about wooden tops in every issue if working for the Guards newsletter.

The objective, I thought, of the Taking Stock column was to entertain accountants, not to insult them for the sake of it. Please ask your colleague to give the expression a rest, at least until he can find a story about supermarket stocktakers, or an avid gardener, or something that is a real runner.

Richard Newstone, London

Don’t blame the Revenue

The article by David Guest, ‘Surviving scapegoat status’, (12 February 1998) brought the sounds of sanity to the hitherto moaning and groaning of seemingly the entire tax advisor profession.

So the Inland Revenue has made some mistakes – hands up those in the profession who have never made a mistake? So the Revenue has sometimes been slow with its correspondence – hands up those who answer their letters by return?

Considering the amount of time everyone has known, and had, to file their tax returns I believe it does not do the profession any good at all to be seen bemoaning the imposition of penalties for late filing.

TM Case, Abingdon, Oxon

Honourable profession

I have suffered years of frustration reading the mischievous and misleading ‘View from the House’ articles written by persons such as Jim Cousins and Austin Mitchell.

These authors are presumably fed contentious material by disaffected people, all of whom have their own agenda for self-aggrandisement and publicity, and not one of whom has the slightest conception of the meaning of an ‘honourable profession’. Nor any concept of an adherence to the professional ethics, traditions of honesty, independence, excellence and respect for the law which together form the hallmarks of a chartered accountant.

The continuous denigration of our profession is an insult to all of us who have laboured to maintain its highest standards, but perhaps one can understand the mentality of the detractors when they refer to the various institutes as ‘accountancy trade associations’. This reveals the trade-union backgrounds of the gentlemen concerned, with their ‘I’m all right, Jack’ philosophy.

We chartered accountants are not members of trade associations but of an honourable profession, and only ignorant and blinkered men cannot see the difference. You Sir, by publishing their articles – although perhaps giving some of your younger readers a frisson of schoolboy’s delight at rebelling against the establishment – are only damaging the very profession you should be serving.

The sublime lack of understanding of the realities of business and professional life is manifested by the latest article by Jim Cousins in your issue of 26 February.

It which would seem to require an auditor to maintain a presence at the client and continue audit procedures right up to the minute of holding the Annual General Meeting. What arrant nonsense.

Lawrence S Fenton, FCA, Bushey Heath, Herts

Don’t poke fun at dyslexia

I would have hoped that, as a professional publication, Accountancy Age would not have published ‘Clutching at straws for excuses’ by Ann Baldwin (page 18, 19 February 1998).

Apart from the general absence of anything particularly humorous, the joke ‘Hector who?’ about dyslexics was in very poor taste. It will perpetuate the commonly held, but incorrect, view that people with dyslexia are ‘stupid’ or ‘thick’.

It could also discourage people with challenging conditions or circumstances from training as accountants, which would be a great pity and a loss to the profession.

I trust that there will be no place for any more insulting articles in Accountancy Age in the future.

You could even run some articles promoting accountancy as a profession open to anyone!

Colin G Sharpe, CPFA, corporate finance manager, Rutland County Council

Callous bad persons

MG Robbins (Letters, 12 February 1998) calls on me to apologise for describing those who wish to expel Tim Smith from the institute as ‘callous bastards’ because such a term is ‘unnecessarily provocative’.

The Oxford dictionary defines a bastard as ‘an illegitimate child’, or (in slang) as ‘an unpleasant person’.

When I described those who wish to expel Tim Smith as bastards, I had in mind the latter meaning, viz ‘an unpleasant person’. Tim Smith has paid a heavy price for his misdemeanour which was committed several years ago, and which had little to do with accountancy.

Those who wish to inflict the coup de grace of depriving him of livelihood by stripping him of institute membership are indeed unpleasant people.

Insofar as MG Robbins is offended because he believes that I was questioning the legitimacy of his birth, I certainly apologise. I believe, though, that it is obvious from the context of my remarks that I meant an unpleasant person, rather than someone born out of wedlock.

James G Fluss BSc (Econ), ACA, London

Living up to our good reputation

Sebastian Church, (Letters, ‘Competition for last return’, 19 February 1998), doesn’t stand a chance.

The last tax return, my own, was hand delivered (no letterbox) to Portsmouth 1 Tax District’s security guard, at 23.57 hrs on Saturday 31 January by my wife, while I enjoyed a good hot soak in the bath.

This ended a 100% return completion, with no rejections, and included clients such as the one that arrived two days earlier without their blank tax return, but with their dividend vouchers and contract notes.

In Robert Maas’ words, from his excellent article in your paper the previous week, like many others, ‘We did our best not to let clients down’.

TG Knight, Lee on Solent, Hampshire

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