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Scrooge with ghost | accountingweb | an accountant's christmas carol
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An Accountant’s Christmas Carol

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Did you know that Ebenezer Scrooge was an accountant? It may not quite be Charles Dickens, but Philip Fisher presents our own Christmas story.

21st Dec 2023
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It was the week before Christmas and Ebenezer Scrooge VI was far from happy.

While he is convinced that Handel had Jeremy Hunt in mind when he wrote Messiah, Scrooge was getting a little tired of the great man’s incessant huffing and puffing about increasing productivity, while achieving less than nothing.

“How can Jeremy – not to mention the sanctified Rishi – fail to realise that the country is leaving 3% of productivity behind each year by allowing the service sector to close down for two weeks at Christmas?” he asked. Many of us have wondered about that.

Scrooge might have been a millionaire and his practice was undoubtedly booming but, knowing that in 2024 he would be forced to pay his multi-functional and multi-talented manager Bob Cratchit over 10% extra thanks to the increase in the national living wage put this accountant into an angry funk.

Sleepless nights

Britain in the 2020s was far from accommodating, requiring Scrooge to pay for holiday time, pension contributions and, totally illogically, even when Cratchit was sick and couldn’t be bothered to work.

Worries of this kind often gave Scrooge sleepless nights, tossing and turning over the injustice of legislation designed to wreck his business. He usually got to sleep by 4am but it was fitful and one night he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

She hearkened our hero back to the happy days when he was an articled clerk. On his first Christmas in the job, Scrooge gleefully walked seven miles to the office every day, including 25 December, and put in a standard 12 hours a day.

On waking, Scrooge determined that he would get every moment of work out of Cratchit that the law allowed. Bob wasn’t wildly happy about that, having looked forward to a restful yuletide.

The following night, having messed up on sleep patterns, once again it was 4am before our weary principal dropped off and, this time, he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present.

He whisked Scrooge into the unheated Cratchit family home on Christmas Day. There, they witnessed Bob attempting to feed his freezing family, including the sickly but cheery Tiny Tim, on a handful of food-bank meatless turkey nuggets and the smallest Christmas pudding in the world, while unconvincingly proclaiming that it was good for the planet to start Veganuary a few days early.

Mrs Cratchit seemed worried about an empty seat at the table saying: “Surely dear Ebenezer Scrooge can’t still be working.”

Vision of the future

As if two nights of tossing and turning weren’t enough, Ebenezer the Sixth completed the hat-trick and at 4am for the third night in a row, the Ghost of Christmas Future turned up in fairy godmother apparel.

The ghost whisked Scrooge away to PwC’s glitzy offices, where he caught a glimpse of a happy future.

“Where are all the people? asked Scrooge.

“Sitting at home,” answered the ghost.

“So, how does any work get done?”

“They sit in their home offices beavering away on laptops.”

It took some time for the ghost to take technophobic Scrooge through a series of recent developments that included computerising office work and communicating via mobile phones, rather than his antiquated fax machine.

Unsettling sight

This was a revelation meaning that bright and early on Christmas Eve, Bob arrived at the office to discover a unique and unsettling sight – Scrooge was smiling benignly.

Not a man for beating about the bush, he proudly showed Bob a sparkling new laptop and state-of-the-art mobile, explaining that the kit would enable his key staff member to work from home, neglecting to mention the cost savings of closing the office for 10 days.

Bob was a little nonplussed and expressed concern about the difficulties of working from home, particularly the money he didn’t have to fill the voracious electricity meter.

His newly benign employer offered the perfect solution. He would happily pay all of the costs if Bob, rather than taking all those silly days off beyond the public holidays, agreed to fill in a couple of days clearing the tax-return backlog.

Goodwill to all

The happy ending to this Christmas tale saw the Cratchit family warm at home through the Christmas period, full to busting on a turkey that barely squeezed into the oven, followed by Christmas pudding that left them drunk for two days, as was their ever-smiling guest Ebenezer Scrooge.

Tiny Tim was the happiest lad in the world having not only received a brand-new Manchester United kit (there’s no accounting for taste) but also sampling the joys of filling in rich people’s tax returns before and after the King’s Christmas broadcast, which excited him far more than an umpteenth viewing of The Great Escape.

That wasn’t quite the end of the story since, on the ensuing 31 January, as he was filling in the last tax return as Big Ben struck midnight, Ebenezer Scrooge succumbed to a fatal heart attack and, when his will was read out, Bob Cratchit inherited the practice, made Tiny Tim his partner and enjoyed many happy years as a gracious and generous boss of a thriving practice that just kept growing.

Please accept my compliments of the season and I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2024.

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