This week’s blogs: what’s in a name?

Have you noticed the way that the taxman refers to you as a ‘customer’?

It’s grated ever since the old Inland Revenue began using this word some
years back. After merger with HM Customs & Excise, the HMRC carried on the

Their February 2009 consult-ation document on a charter perpetuates the idea
it has ‘customers,’ but this isn’t a universal collective noun within HMRC.

They will ‘test the charter with staff, stakeholders and customers prior to
the launch’. They ‘held a deliberative [sic] event with customers,
representative bodies and staff’. They provided an opportunity for ‘stakeholders
to provide written comments,’ and received 42 responses from ‘representative
bodies, businesses and individuals’. The executive summary says a tax charter
could help to ensure ‘the tax system is understandable and accessible to all
taxpayers’. In chapter one we’re ‘customers’ again.

I have yet to find anyone who likes being called a customer of HMRC, and no
dictionary definition I have traced supports this use. My solution is to call us
all the CBI – Companies, Businesses and Individuals. But that could get

Mark Lee, chairman of the Tax Advice Network

When apportioning blame for the current economic crisis, opprobrium is heaped
on bankers and politicians.

But should fingers also point at the accountancy profession? It is said that
auditors are watchdogs, not bloodhounds, and sniffing out problems is not their
job. But even the laziest watchdog should bark if it sees a burglar. Did no
auditor, toiling over any financial institution’s figures see the approaching
disaster? If this is so, there are lessons to be learned.

Phil Shohet, director of Kato Consultancy

‘Fair value’ accounting, which requires businesses to value financial
instruments and derivatives at current market price, is blamed by some for the
banking crisis.

Rather than ditching fair value, I believe the IASB should clarify what
accounts realistically can and do, and develop a conceptual framework for
financial reporting, keeping fair value as an important part of the mix.

Any moves to water down fair value risks ending the convergence between
international financial reporting standards and US accounting standards, which
will be damaging for investors who want to be able to compare markets,
particularly as the world economy recovers.

Richard Aitken-Davies, president of ACCA

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