What we've been reading: Atwood, culture, and IRS

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Welcome to What We've Been Reading, the AccountingWEB editors' weekly round-up of the stories that have caught their attention. 

This week we take a peek at the effects of toxic management culture, try to crowbar accountancy parallels into the work of Margaret Atwood, and hear a sorry tale of tax deadline day mayhem from across the Atlantic. 

FrancoisFrancois - Toxic management cost an award-winning game studio its best developers

As I write this, I’ve just finished recording a webcast with the former CFO of Deliveroo Philip Green (no, not that Philip Green). Green talked at length about culture and how it kept Deliveroo’s finance team together while under supreme pressure.

It reminded me of this article I read last week about a video game developer called Telltale Games. The business experienced rapid growth after a series of successful titles. It all seemed rosy - but cut to now and the business has wilted as a toxic culture took hold.

It can seem fluffy to talk about culture. Results matter, not how people feel, right? But examples like Telltale Games show how culture affects business performance. Talented individuals, simply put, don’t need to put up with B.S.

Telltale lost its brightest stars, who almost without exception went on to create award-winning work. So it’s never a question of where culture ends and business begins. They’re the same thing.  

Richard HattersleyRichard: Stone Mattress (Margaret Atwood)

As any keen What We’ve Been Reading reader will have deduced, I am wading my way through the work of Margaret Atwood.
 
Of course, it is a bit of a struggle linking Atwood’s Stone Mattress to the world of accountancy. But like any devoted accountancy journalist, I will give it my best shot.
 
So, this week my whistle-stop Atwood tour arrived at her collection of nine short stories. Revenge plays a central role in many of the stories, such as ‘The Dead Hand Loves You’.
 
To curb a budding novelist's rent-skirting ways, his three flatmates strike a deal, where each owns a share of the novel. Not wanting to side-line his writing endeavours, the main character Jack signs the contract, not for one minute imagining that his manuscript would become a horror story sensation.
 
But as the novel gains worldwide acclaim, poor Jack is unable to reap all the financial rewards. So, he plots against his former flatmates, imagining their bleak ends to unshackle himself from this ironclad contract.
 
Surely many practitioners can relate to this scenario (stay with me here!). Perhaps they've been bound or exploited by a contract they’d signed. Or the accountant may regret letting a client run down their fees, or if a partnership had gone awry.
 
How would you respond? With gritted their teeth? Or would you try to wriggle out in similar ways to this story (but without the murderous scheming)?
 

Tom HerbertTom: IRS website crashes on deadline day

While many accountants in the UK have been left frustrated by the HMRC website, particularly on self assessment deadline day, over on the other side of the Atlantic their American peers were practically sharpening their pitchforks as the tax authority’s website crashed on deadline day.

The website malfunction crippled a crucial part of the agency’s website that allows taxpayers to file returns electronically and make their tax payments directly through their bank accounts and brought the nation’s tax machinery to a halt on a day when millions of Americans were expected to file their tax returns.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking to reporters at an event in New Hampshire to promote President Trump’s recent $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, called the malfunction a “high-volume technical issue”, and the IRS gave taxpayers an additional day to file their returns.

A top IRS official warned Congress in October that a “catastrophic” system failure was just a matter of time due to antiquated IT systems and budget cuts - a message that might sound eerily familiar to anyone following the recent trials and tribulations over at HMRC.

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