Accountable

“Counsellor: Mr Anchovy, you asked us to advise you which job in life you were best suited for.

Anchovy: That is correct, yes.

Counsellor: Well I now have the results here of the interviews and the aptitude tests that you took last week, and from them we’ve built up a pretty clear picture of the sort of person that you are. And I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that the ideal job for you is chartered accountancy.

Anchovy: But I am a chartered accountant.

Counsellor: Jolly good. Well back to the office with you then.

Anchovy: No! No! No! You don’t understand. I’ve been a chartered accountant for the last twenty years. I want a new job. Something exciting that will let me live.

Counsellor: Well chartered accountancy is rather exciting isn’t it?

Anchovy: Exciting? No it’s not. It’s dull. Dull. Dull. My God it’s dull, it’s so desperately dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and des-per-ate-ly DULL.

Counsellor: Well, er, yes Mr Anchovy, but you see your report here says that you are an extremely dull person. You see, our experts describe you as an appallingly dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab and awful. And whereas in most professions these would be considerable drawbacks, in chartered accountancy they are a positive boon.”

Taken from Monty Python’s “The Vocational Guidance Counsellor” (http://www.montypython.net/scripts/vocation.php, or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azkFz1ZbXyU, if you want to watch the video). One of my favourites. The piece finishes with the concerned counsellor turning to the camera with a plea:

“Well this is just one of the all too many cases on our books of chartered accountancy. The only way that we can fight this terrible debilitating social disease, is by informing the general public of its consequences, by showing young people that it’s just not worth it. So, so please… give generously… to this address: The League for Fighting Chartered Accountancy, 55 Lincoln House, Basil Street, London, SW3.”

They certainly have my support.

I am convinced that Australian government policy is dictated by accountants. Life used to be simple. I went to work, had my hard earned pay arbitrarily deducted by the government and, once a year, filled in a form to make sure the government had not inadvertently taken too little money from me. That was it. I did not even need an accountant. Worst case scenario, if life became too complex, I would still only need an accountant once a year.

Well, the accountants didn’t like that because it left them with nothing to do for 11 months. I don’t imagine the indolence bothered them but it is hard to charge people for doing nothing (I will discuss private medical insurance next time). So, what brilliant convoluted plan did they come up with? If you are a salaried wage earner you are still relatively safe (but for how long?). However, if you have a business, watch out. Tax needs to be paid four times a year and it has to be paid in advance based on what the government thinks you might earn, as opposed to what you actually did earn.

If that wasn’t enough we now have the delightful Goods and Services Tax (GST), which has turned us all into tax collectors. GST is added to income. I have to save up all that GST and, every three months, forward the accumulated total to the government. Why the government can’t extract it directly but has to use me as a middle man is beyond me.

The good news is that all this complexity and confusion means the accountants are now busy year round, and don’t they charge for it. It baffles me that a person who spends his working life adding up numbers can charge twice what a person who mends broken bones, and diagnoses and treats life threatening diseases does. On top of their already exorbitant fee, my accountant (soon to be ex-accountant) also charges for the privilege of talking to me by email or phone. I did not, however, know this until I received my first bill. Even though they pride themselves on being a paperless office, all my bills still turn up in the mail, despite numerous pleas for electronic invoices. Never mind the “War and Peace” size, bound tax return they mail to me each year. After all the money I pay them they still put a disclaimer on their work telling me they have based their return on information I have provided and can’t be held accountable (pun intended) for any errors (which they certainly make enough of) or miscalculations and that I should be sure to check everything before I sign off on it. If I was in any position to check their work or understand their calculations I could do the bloody thing myself in the first place and not have to employ their vast army of incompetent bean counters for $200+ an hour.

$200 an hour! Jealous? You bet. That will teach me to fall asleep during maths.

Dr. F. Bunny

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