In the summer I have the disagreeable task of gathering all my financial statements together and bunging them off to my accountant knowing her return shot in the autumn will be a computation of tax due at the end of January.
I used to use a big firm of accountants in the City. It was slow and expensive but the job got done. About two years ago a friend recommended a small firm in a village in Rutland. I pay less for a better service. But it’s no fun paying tax so I steeled myself on Wednesday evening to get it out of the way, pouring a glass of Duke of Clarence Maderia to anaesthetise myself against the pain.
Her (new accountant) computation was almost 30% higher than the assessment I received from HM Revenue & Customs. Hitherto I had not noticed because it pains me to read such stuff until absolutely necessary. Now pay close attention. I swiftly scanned the HMRC assessment using the new Black Friday copier/scanner and e mailed it (at 17.43) up to Rutland for investigation, hoping the matter might be resolved before the 31st January deadline for payment.
Exactly thirty-five minutes later my hair stood on end just like the quills on a fretful porcupine. Indeed my eyes jolly nearly started from their spheres. My accountant did not reply (at 18.18) to say that she would get on my case. She replied in some detail how the discrepancy had arisen, said that she had spoken to and agreed the correct amount with HMRC and that they would send an amended assessment. The correct amount, incidentally, is about halfway between the two original assessments.
Thirty-five minutes, note, not thirty-five days or months for accountant and tax officer to confer and reach an agreement. It is astounding. O brave new world that has such people in it.