ADVENTURES OF ACCOUNTANTS
An adventure is something you don’t enjoy while you are in it – but relish it (if you survive) later on. The adventurers can be categorized into three broad categories:
- Some people are born adventurers.
- Some become adventurers by planning. They plan their adventures with meticulous care. Tight rope walking across Niagara Falls (or jumping off in a drum), etc. The list is endless for these adrenaline junkies.
- For a few the adventures are thrust upon you: a bus accident, or being a passenger in a hijacked plane. You don’t plan for these. Like ‘love’, it just happens! And you have no choice but to be part of it.
The adventures of accountants? The universal truth is that the accountants lead most boring lives. Or at the most, they lead a very ‘balanced’ life. If one goes on any search engine, and type the words ‘accountant jokes’, one will get uncountable hits! Few million hits lesser than the words ‘lawyer jokes’.
I am an accountant. A hard-core one! Why do accountants now have any adventures? I discussed the matter with my beloved (philosophical) wife.
“What are your feelings before, during and after the adventure?”
“Millions of butterflies in the stomach, a fear of the unknown, feeling of anticipation (before), overwhelming, dying, elation, extreme fear (during), sense of accomplishment, glowing, satisfaction (after).”
“You had a very good practice in Mumbai. You were NOT happy there. You wanted something more. Without any research or backing (there was no internet in India then), you opted to migrate to Canada and make it your home. We followed you.
“Butterflies? We had a whole jungle in our stomachs. Scared to death? That would be an understatement. Anticipation? Yes, but only of worse things to happen in the future. That was before we started for Canada.
“Normally, an adventure lasts for a few seconds/minutes/hours or, in rare cases, days. Our adventure in Canada lasted whole three years! Remember our ‘Miss India’ concerts – wherein the children and I used to cry every evening into nights – ‘We Miss Our India’?”
I confessed I missed that part of the adventure completely. To achieve the same, if not better, lifestyle that we enjoyed in Mumbai, I juggled between two or more jobs and studied hard (to get my local designation). No time to stand and stare with miles to go!
And the steep learning curve? I thought that book-keeping and accounting were the same throughout the world. After all, we had mastered the Indian Accounting Standards, as also International Accounting Standards. And I remembered my university professor:
“There are three golden principles of book-keeping. THREE GOLDEN PRINCIPLES!”
The professor went on to elaborate on these gold principles. As first-year University Students, fresh from the school, we focused on each pearl that the professor cast before us.
“Even when someone wakes you up from the deepest slumber and asks you about these principles, you must be able to narrate them without any hesitation.”
Dutiful students that we were, we internalized the principles. The professor was NOT wrong. Even today, I try to break down complex accounting transactions and analyze them. And most of the time, I don’t need a second opinion.
The trouble was that the Canadian Bosses and colleagues did not know and care about these Indian principles. Or for that matter, Indians. Their eyebrows would reach new heights whenever they heard me discuss sundry debtors, sundry creditors, raising the invoices, tallying the trial balance, etc. My quick (and accurate) answer of $6,000 as 30% of $20,000 was checked and re-checked on the fancy calculators or spreadsheet. And the three golden principles? I am still afraid to ask any local CPA.
Putting on the thinking cap, I never thought that accounting – especially the public practice – is dull. Though most of the work is pretty mundane and mechanical, (like digging tonnes of coal) we hit a diamond! And the adventure begins. All the diamonds given below are not my own – but I can ‘vouch’ for them.
Working for a CA firm specializing in ‘tax planning’, the partner of the firm did comprehensive planning for a top-notch smuggler and his family. The dispute over the fees led to the partner refusing to part with the working paper files and relevant documents back to the client. The dispute went on for a few weeks.
One evening, a wimpy representative met the partner and requested the documents.
“First pay my fees.”
The representative then started the narration about the daily activities of all the family members of the partner. At what time, who does what and where! In a monotonous tone, no harsh words. Voices were not raised, but the partner’s blood pressure shot up. There was a ‘single entry’ transaction of documents being returned without funds flowing in.
Then a few years ago, a new client sought the help of an accountant.
“Occasionally, I buy the car, and either sell it locally or export it for a small profit.”
Occasionally was the keyword; which on further probe turned out to be ugly bee-hive. The evasion of sales tax (Federal and provincial), Custom Duties, taxes – the works. The would-be client had to knock at another door!
Then there’s a case of the smart client – who played one accountant against another. He got the tax advice (free) from one accountant and requested the other to implement the same. Unfortunately, for this client, the two accountants knew each other, and the rip-off was averted!
Every day, everywhere I see adventures. If nothing else works, I pick up the Income Tax Act and read a complete Section. Trying very hard to understand. That, in itself, is the biggest adventure.