Some of my best friends are auditors but even they cannot explain why their trade is in a constant state of flux.
It is easy to understand why we tax specialists have a hard life. Twice a year, a man who thinks he knows more about the subject than we do, changes half of the rules.
To make it worse, he and his friends ensure that rather than replacing anything they merely supplement the already hefty statute books.
The same is happening in other countries, meaning that tax really is constantly developing and always getting more complex, despite the brave efforts of John Whiting and the Office for Tax Simplification.
Ultimately, the only purpose of an audit is to give as much of a guarantee as possible that a set of accounts is not materially incorrect - OK true and fair. Admittedly, it is necessary to take care since otherwise shareholders, creditors, bankers or the government might step in and raise merry hell.
What I cannot comprehend is why, having worked out how to prepare a set of accounts that make sense and then how to verify them several centuries ago, members of the profession seem to tinker with those rules almost as often as the chancellor does with tax legislation.
If a set of numbers adds up, cross casts and balances to a load of associated numbers, surely that means that the figures are definitively as good as they can be.
There may well need to be some adjustments for things like depreciation and even taxation, while the requirement to prepare a set of accounts on the accruals basis adds a little more to the burden.
Even so, it is not clear to me why the principles laid down in say the Victorian era, when professionals reputedly tended to be far more careful than they are today, would not work perfectly well.
Computers should have made life easier rather more difficult, while there are enough aspiring accountants or lower-level number crunchers available to do whatever ticking and bashing necessary to provide comfort.
Having explained that, readers could then go step further and help me to get a better feeling for why auditors seem to be criticised and reprimanded on a regular basis for their failure to do all of this correctly, after all of the centuries of practice.
Far worse, they allow companies like Enron to go bust, banks to follow suit and quite conceivably, countries to go down with them.
Nowadays it is a sine qua non that bankers are second cousins to Satan himself, destroying the global economy and sending quite a few governments into the history books before the end of their natural terms.
If we are not careful, some intelligent blighter will add two and two together (for us to audit of course) and come to the conclusion that while the bankers really were rogues, the accountants that allowed them to get away with it were probably not doing too good a job either.
While Andersen’s bit the dust for exactly this reason, it would be a shame to see more supposedly reputable firms go the same way.
Perhaps I’m missing something, in which case a little education from those who really understand these things would be very welcome. Otherwise, I worry for the reputation of the profession.