RegulationCorporate GovernanceScrap the OFR? Yes, minister

Scrap the OFR? Yes, minister

With apologies to Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, you can imagine how the conversation ran in Whitehall last week.

An ambitious minister – let’s not call him Jim Hacker, how about Gordon
Brown, to pluck a name from the sky – returns to his desk after the weekend. His
permanent secretary, the Humphreyish Nicholas Macpherson, has, as usual, beaten
him to the office.

‘Nick, I was visiting a small business in my constituency on Saturday and saw
how stifling red tape can be. The company – an organisation chock full of
potential voters, I mean the heads of hard-working families – is being forced to
lay people off because of the cost of form filling. It was awful. But I know how
we can solve this red tape problem once and for all.’

Macpherson’s eyebrows arch as he clutches a folder of ministerial missives
tightly to his chest.

‘What we need is a flat tax system for business,’ says Brown, warming to his
theme. ‘At a stroke it will cut red tape, increase the tax take and enable us to
divert civil servants’ time to more valuable pursuits. Like shutting the Child
Support Agency.’

Macpherson splutters. ‘A flat tax? You want to do away with 200 years of
tradition? Two hundred years of cat and mouse between tax advisers and tax
collectors? A 200 year-old mass employment programme? Is this what we fought
Napoleon for?’

Brown is taken aback. ‘So what do you suggest then? I’m not prepared to sit
back and do nothing on this one.’

Macpherson gathers himself and plucks out the last page of his files. ‘Well,
this might do the trick,’ he says. ‘There’s this thing called the OFR. I won’t
trouble you with what it stands for. It’s something thought up by accountants to
extract more money from their clients. It’s not mandatory yet, voters won’t be
sorry to see it go and scrapping it will only enhance your credentials as a man
who means business when it comes to slashing red tape.’

Brown beams. ‘Enhance my credentials! Do it,’ he says.

‘Yes, minister,’ comes the familiar reply.

Fault the quality of the pastiche if you like – but the logic sounds
desperately plausible. How else could the scrapping of the OFR be given the
green light at this late stage? Cutting bureaucracy is laudable, but the
chancellor has picked the wrong target.

Given that most listed companies are already adhering to its principles, we
only hope that, even without the force of legislation behind it, business will
elect to comply with a worthwhile initiative designed to make company accounts
more transparent and understandable.

Related Articles

Corporate governance: staying ahead in accountancy

Corporate Governance Corporate governance: staying ahead in accountancy

3m Alia Shoaib, Reporter
One in 20 audit firms quit as market evolves

Audit One in 20 audit firms quit as market evolves

1y Kevin Reed, Writer
Colin: #EURef bankers a problem

Business Regulation Colin: #EURef bankers a problem

1y Taking Stock
PwC and Deloitte chiefs sign Remain letter

Business Regulation PwC and Deloitte chiefs sign Remain letter

1y Kevin Reed, Writer
Leader: Audit competition drives change, not necessarily quality

Accounting Firms Leader: Audit competition drives change, not necessarily quality

2y Kevin Reed, Writer
EU audit reform to open up £10bn market for firms

Accounting Firms EU audit reform to open up £10bn market for firms

2y Richard Crump, Writer
Best Practice: Saffery Champness managing partner Rob Elliott

Accounting Firms Best Practice: Saffery Champness managing partner Rob Elliott

2y Calum Fuller, Reporter
Standard Life Investments opposes EY's appointment as Shell auditors at AGM

Accounting Firms Standard Life Investments opposes EY's appointment as Shell auditors at AGM

2y Richard Crump, Writer