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A quick way to turn good husbands into bad accountants

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"Never call an accountant a credit to his profession; a good accountant is a debit to his profession." That's a quote of Charles Lyell (1797-1875), a British lawyer who also dabbled in geology.

Not a kind quote, you'd agree. But, if you look closer home, we have in our Finance Minister, a lawyer who may be equally unfavourably inclined to accountants, if the past is any indicator. Take, for instance, the service tax imbroglio. The accounting tribe has often been protesting against discriminatory moves, though what starts off as a vociferous war cry ultimately dies down with as a meek whimper.

In the latest issue of

The Chartered Accountant

, ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) president docilely informs that on May 18, the Finance Minister gave `a patient hearing and assured to look into the matter of withdrawal of service tax exemption notification.' The reference is to the taxman bringing within the service tax net accounting and auditing services.

Now, here is something more recent to resent about. A few days ago, all the Finance Minister's taxmen rolled out a new format of tax return, Form No. 2F. Ostensibly, it claims to be simpler and easier. But the long-term effect it can have is to make every common taxpayer an accountant by pushing them to draw up cash flow statements.

The form indulges in proxy prying into households by seeking information on `outgoings during the year,' immediately after a line that calls for `number of dependents.' As an adjective, outgoing means `friendly and confident,' but that's the least you can expect of the taxman. The noun form of the word means `one's regular expenditure,' as

www.askoxford.com

defines.

Thus, these outflows can be in the form of investments and expenditures, that is, both capital and revenue. A separate schedule elicits the break-up of outgoings as `Chapter VI-A' investments, `other investments,' and `other outgoings.' Experts point out that the tax officials may compare your outgoings with the number of dependents to see if it was reasonable! On dependents, again, there can be umpteen vexing doubts on who are all covered.

Wives often fret that accountants don't make good husbands. While, on that, there can be an unending debate, the new form has the potential to make all good husbands into bad accountants. For, faced with the tall task of having to fill up a demanding tax form, they may be more keen on checking the price tag on your new dress, for records' sake, rather than saying a nice word to you, in appreciation.

And, if you're gnashing your teeth to scream back, please desist the urge. The blame lies elsewhere.

http://AccountSpeak.blogspot.com

D. Murali

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 8, 2006)
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