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A Jack Russell talking into a microphone| AccountingWEB | AccountingWEB's 2023 Quotes of the Year
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AccountingWEB quotes of the year 2023

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How do you make sense of a year that saw the rise of artificial intelligence, further restrictions to HMRC helplines and the usual headaches of tax and compliance? With AccountingWEB’s annual round-up of quotes from our writers and members, of course. 

21st Dec 2023
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January

“When more customers use our online services, this frees up our helpline advisers to offer a better service for those customers who have more complex queries or are unable to use online services.” Defending HMRC’s customer service during January, Jim Harra suggested that if taxpayers used online services the wait time would fall from the average of 27 minutes.

* * *

“As Julius Caesar is proverbially believed to have said, ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.’ The same applies to anyone in the public eye, as Nadhim Zahawi has painfully learned over the last few months.” Philip Fisher sticks the knife in the back of tax cheat former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi.

* * *

“ChatGPT gives answers with an air of confidence even when it’s completely wrong. It’s not afraid to give a garbage answer and back it up with garbage. It’s like having a fresh-faced junior who’s always convinced they’re right.” Chartered accountant Stuart Cobbe offers a word of warning after putting the chatbot through the first stage ACA paper – and it narrowly missed the pass mark. 

* * *

“Heaven help the unrepresented.” AccountingWEB veteran Tom123 spared a thought for taxpayers after trying to get his head around the switch to tax year basis, which is set to go ahead in 2024. 

February

“So that was January, a month dominated by calculations, permutations, congratulations and commiserations of a taxation variety, when all the latecomers come begging for assistance, some brazen and others apologetic and contrite, until next year when the pattern repeats with the same protagonists… Who in their right mind would want to replace this with a boring monthly and quarterly MTD routine? Let’s keep January as it is.” Winnie Wiggleroom marked the end of another January busy season. 

***

“Sorry sir, your card payment at the butchers has been declined as your holiday flights last year have been reclassified as a 10X carbon sin and so your credit score is now in the red. May we direct you to the bug-foods counter?" RobbieT remains cynical about the prospect of a state-backed digital currency.

***

“Given these considerations, I speculate we’ll discover some bold proposals relating to taxation reform as part of forthcoming budget documents released later this year!”  In what looked like an early contender for IX post of the year, Bright asked ChatGPT for its 2023 Budget predictions. Does ChatGPT actually understand what the annual Budget presentation is for?

***

“As far as I can see it’s just a Wikipedia for computer nerds.” Stu8 reacts to ChatGPT’s incursion into the world of accountancy.

March

“Having announced earlier that the government would be cutting off both thumbs of everyone, it announced in the Budget it would only cut one thumb off of some people. Hooray, said those people, the Chancellor has given us an extra thumb.” It’s fair to say that Jeremy Hunt’s R&D tax relief changes haven’t won over AndyC555.

***

“Oh my God, I’m in the right place… The neurodiverse brain and accountancy go hand in hand. When I started to learn a bit about management accounts, I thought: ‘I like this.’” At the risk of flirting with some unfortunate stereotypes, financial analyst and neurodiversity advocate Gavin Simpson describes his realisation that he had found his calling in finance. 

***

“Take care – that’s a T34 (85), a Russian tank. We know how effective they are!” memyself-eye applies their military expertise to critique the editorial team’s choice of imagery.

* * *

April

“So, in short, it’s not worked burying small businesses in paperwork checking things they know already. So we are going to double down and do more of the same.” AccountingWEB regular Ireallyshouldknowthisbut was not convinced by the government’s new plans announced in April to toughen AML supervision.  

* * *

“Does HMRC not understand that no agent wants to call HMRC and wait for ages – a phone call is the last resort. If we could resolve queries online we would!” Michael2022A received 50 thanks for his comment following the news of HMRC restricting the Agent Dedicated Line for six weeks in April.

* * *

“I’m reminded of the classic episode of Frasier where the brothers decide to start a restaurant and both think of different ways of restricting access to make it as exclusive as possible (unlisted phone number, no signage on the door etc). Apparently, Niles and Frasier have won the government contract to facilitate HMRC’s call centres.” There appears to be a lot of tossed salad and scrambled eggs at HMRC HQ, according to Retrocanary

* * *

“My husband asked someone in an interview if they could use Lotus 123. (It was a long time ago!) They replied that they knew Lotus 1 and 2 but not 3.” There is exaggerating your software skills and then there is this from MJShone. 

May

“Ruddles – I’m ripping up my calendar!” AccountingWEB editor Richard Hattersley isn’t the only one to be left stumped by HMRC’s date malfunction when communicating the closure of the VAT helpline to agents.

* * *

“The administrative burden associated with quarterly updates is disproportionate and needs a rethink.” The gloves were off for the tax faculty, with Frank Haskew taking aim at the burden of quarterly reporting as part of the ICAEW’s call to revamp Making Tax Digital.

* * *

“Shows how detested AML regs are when the title includes the phrases (actually, is mostly) ‘getting away with’ and ‘bare minimum’.” The headline of a hugely popular article on anti-money laundering compliance raised some eyebrows, as noted here by memyself-eye. 

June

Only with HMRC do you encounter all this wrapped into a single homogenous failing state, presided over by what appears to be a lobotomised amoeba who’s happy to float in the detritus.” The closure of the self assessment helpline for three months in June led to this classic Hugo Fair rant.

* * *

Among the many tributes to John Stokdyk (#MickJaggerofAccounting according to Satinder Lala), who died in June, was this from Duggimon: “I got a new plant for my office yesterday and I have named him John Stokdyk,” and this from Rebecca Benneyworth: “Goodnight, sweet man; you were a blessing to all who met you.”

* * *

“It’s too easy on this forum to keep on moving to the next item, without taking the time to reflect on all the help that Rebecca has provided over the years… Clear, accessible, focused and without fear of mandarins.” Hugo Fair was one of many readers to pay tribute to Rebecca Cave upon hearing news of her retirement

July

* * * 

“There’s certainly a case to be made that by adding its meeting cost calculator Shopify may end up knowing the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.” Tom Herbert makes the case for work meetings after Shopify implemented a meeting cost calculator to minimise group gatherings. 

* * *

“Taylor Swift fans have jumped through more hoops and ticked more boxes to secure tour tickets than the offending minority has when putting together their AML processes and procedures.” In the first for our accounting site, Richard Hattersley attempts to make the comparison between getting tickets for the Eras Tour and the AML non-compliance of some accountants. 

* * *

“Truly a new low on the plummeting graph of HMRC’s incompetence. A time was when one phone call would have resolved the initial confusion that set in motion this train of horror.” Coleprice reacted to the news that HMRC got fundamental details incorrect in a bankruptcy ruling and nearly ruined the life of an innocent payroll clerk. 

August

“Customers are not experts in VAT, but they are experts in trying to reduce their costs by saying any old rubbish.” Jason Croke’s response to a business owner getting in a huff about clients complaining about VAT charges. 

* * *

“When Alanis Morissette sang Ironic, she failed to include a lyric about video conferencing firm Zoom ordering its remote employees back to the office.” According to Richard Hattersley, it was almost like rain on your wedding day when the video conferencing giant made this decision.

* * *

“Lack of resources is a reason, but not an excuse. Even their online automated interactions have a human behind them and so it’s not really an automated process, it’s just a fancier version of sending an email or writing a letter. If HMRC is using AI, I’ve yet to see where.” Jason Croke again on HMRC’s poor service levels – a common theme this year. 

* * *

“The forces of simplicity and fairness pull in opposite directions across the field of tax reliefs – a simple flat tax is easy to administrate, but it may be unfair to certain taxpayers, so a relief is added in order to ease the burden of those who shout the loudest.” Rebecca Cave on the problem with tax reliefs.  

* * *

“As Blackadder might have said: ‘There are amoeba on Saturn who could produce a more accurate CGT computation than you.’” Yossarian paraphrased Edmund Blackadder when giving their thoughts on the incompetent accountant whose “cunning plan” showed they had no grasp of CGT. 

* * *

September

“As a publication that is often quick to point out gaps in HMRC’s digital services, it’s only fair that we should congratulate it on its successes.” Tom Herbert gives HMRC a pat on the back following the rollout of its new NI number and tax code access services. This service was clearly sought after as this news ended up being our most-read article of the year.

* * *

“When it comes to making money, Alan Sugar is so good that he was honoured with a seat in the House of Lords. However, alleged attempts to avoid paying taxes on his hard-earned wealth make Lord Sugar look rather more of an apprentice.” Alan Sugar’s accountants felt like one of the stars from the hit BBC reality show The Apprentice after the Lord pointed his finger at them for his hefty £186m tax bill

* * *

“HMRC is on its knees; if it were a building it would be dilapidated with a family of pigeons living inside.” Press release from JF Hornby & Co after HMRC took more than three years to deal with the accountant’s basic enquiry. 

October

“I would introduce some small-scale pilot schemes that would involve opening local offices but equipped with up-to-date technology and each staffed with expertise in every tax field but supported by enthusiastic juniors. They could initially take on a set number of “taxpayers” to look after and the standards would be high including phones answered immediately and no unanswered post. Meetings with taxpayers would be encouraged as would relationships with agents.” Springfield outlined his HMRC utopia, reacting to the Imprudent Accountant’s “Is it the end of the road for HMRC?” column. 

* * *

The makers of McVitie’s biscuits have had another bite of the cherry Bakewell in the age-old saga of VAT applied to confectionery.” AccountingWEB’s tax editor Amy Chin got her teeth stuck into the latest VAT and food case.

* * *  

“A room full of highly educated, doubtless intelligent people each costing a small fortune to be there to settle such a crucial, life-altering question of what is a biscuit?” The readers such as Roland195 were equally as perplexed by the biscuit-based VAT case

* * *

“On my first job as a trainee I queried an invoice that I was checking. The audit senior told me to pick another one and don’t look for problems, which surprised me as I thought that was what we were there for!” Tax bot shared their experience training with KPMG after hearing about the Big Four firm’s record £21m fine following a torrent of serious breaches in the audit of Carillion. 

November

“The Chancellor pulled some unexpected rabbits from his hat – especially given that this was an Autumn Statement not a Budget – and I suspect some of the widely trailed potential rabbits that didn’t make it to the Chancellor’s speech will reappear in the spring. That’s the way with rabbits.” Following the Autumn Statement, Paul Aplin expects rabbits to come out of hibernation in time for the Spring Budget.  

* * *

“All carefully calculated to not give much away but seem like they’re helping out… Almost as if there’s an election round the corner.” PChapman wasn’t convinced by the Chancellor’s tax giveaways in the Autumn Statement

* * *

“Let the other lot have a go rather than announcing a load of bear traps to trip up Labour politically so they have to undo it all. Utter waste of everyone’s time and productivity.” Ireallyshouldknowthisbut was one of many in the community to feel jaded by the political one-upmanship and the fiscal merry-go-round in Westminster.

* * *

“It keeps getting watered down as time goes on until it will soon be fully diluted.” The MTD reprieve to low earners in the Autumn Statement didn’t impress AdamJones82. 

* * *

“Seven years and £640m into the Making Tax Digital programme, we are concerned HMRC is also succeeding in making tax difficult.” Meg Hillier, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, highlighted concerns about the costs, delays and deliverability of Making Tax Digital

December

“So HMRC won’t be answering queries until February. Looks like a lot of tax returns will be filed with notes in the white space, and then amended in February.” Further restrictions to HMRC’s helplines, including the Agent Dedicated Line, went down as well as you could imagine with StephenGuy and many others in the community.

* * *

“Move over dinosaurs, as possibly one of the youngest members of AccountingWEB I get to have my say.” AWEB whippersnapper WinterDragon outlines the myths and misconceptions young people have about the profession.

* * *

“Got my first email today that finished with wishing me ‘Happy Christmas and a great 2024’. My heart sank.” AccountingWEB member Postingcomments was accused on Any Answers of being the Grinch after venting about being socially obligated to acknowledge Christmas in emails

* * *

Discussing their most memorable Christmas gifts from clients, I’msorryIhaven’taclue recalled receiving “a six-case of red wine from a grateful client whose problem I solved nigh on Christmas. Later, upon being invoiced for the work, he asked for them back!”

Replies (6)

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
21st Dec 2023 16:03

Well that was a gentle non-technical end to the year.

I wish my fellow Awebbers who are not already in the pub a good Christmas, and see you all in Jan.

And a bah humbug to those of you working through

Thanks (5)
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By FactChecker
21st Dec 2023 18:28

I've been ordered by the next generation to only bring up 'good news' stories next year ... 'be positive' they cry.
So, now that HMRC 'services' have been struck from the menu, what am I supposed to talk about?

But despite the increasing likelihood that Dystopia is emerging from the mists, I'll keep a smiling face ... and wish everyone a safe bolt-hole over the holidays.

Thanks (4)
stonks
By WinterDragon
22nd Dec 2023 13:51

I take great offense to being referred to as a whippersnapper without including the part of my thread that called the rest of you cynical old farts.

Merry Christmas all and a special warm wishes to PostingComments - hope you and you're loved ones are safe and have a wonderful 2024.

Thanks (4)
Pile of Stones
By Beach Accountancy
22nd Dec 2023 18:16

Merry Christmas to everybody, including the regulars. As a sole practitioner, it's good to know that I am not the only one who can be having a bad day. Here's to a stress-free 2024. (Oh hang on, remind me how the new basis periods and the transitional periods are going to work again).

Thanks (4)
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By Rob Swan
04th Jan 2024 11:57

Brilliant! Thanks AW.

Thanks (0)
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By Stephen378Baker
27th Feb 2024 06:17

The idea of Niles and Frasier Crane running HMRC's call centers adds a touch of absurdity.

Thanks (0)