Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BLOG 134


I have just signed the nomination form to try to get my friend, Nathan Steinberg, re-elected to the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

I have never worked in a large accountancy practice.  I much prefer the small firm environment.  My own strengths are that I understand tax across the board to a fairly high level and that I like to solve problems.  The first is probably a symptom of my age (fortunately my partners did not notice that our partnership agreement said that I should retire at 60 and that is now so long ago that they seem to have accepted that they are stuck with me).  I started in tax in 1965 (when corporation tax and capital gains tax were introduced), so it was relatively easy for me to add to my knowledge VAT and IHT and SDLT when they came along.  Someone coming into tax nowadays will find it very hard to learn tax across the board from a standing start.  It is not impossible.  I force our tax staff to do it and my newly-promoted partner, Tom Adcock, has achieved a good grasp of the whole tax landscape at a relatively young age.

But I digress.  After qualifying, Nathan joined in Deloittes and has gradually embraced the small is beautiful concept by moving to smaller and smaller firms.  He has ended up as senior partner of Munslows LLP, a similar sized firm to Blackstone Franks.  He seems to be enjoying the small firm environment as much as I do.  The big firm life however seems to have given Nathan the urge for hands-on business experience and, unlike me, he has developed a sideline in non-executive directorships of AIM listed companies.  Obviously, being a part-time practising accountant, he cannot possibly be as good at tax as me, although he is probably better than me at accounting!

But this blog isn’t actually about Nathan either.  It’s about volunteering.  Have you noticed how it is the busiest people who seem to find time to do a lot of voluntary work?  I have always volunteered a lot of time to the ICAEW, particularly its Tax Faculty, but also to the London Society of Chartered Accountants (LSCA) and as a Support Member (volunteers who try to help members in difficulties in non-technical areas).  I also used to volunteer a lot of time to the Institute of Indirect Taxation (the main UK VAT body) but since its merger last year with the Chartered Institute of Taxation (I am a volunteer on their Property Tax Committee) I have shifted my VAT volunteering to the ICAEW Tax Faculty.  Nathan is a serial volunteer too!  I first met him when we were both volunteers on the Committee of the Central London Small Practitioners Group (SPG – nominally part of the LSCA).  Nathan has graduated to the LSCA Committee and the ICAEW Council (its governing body).  I have never had an ambition to stand for the ICAEW Council, but have always felt it very important that there are a number of people on Council who have small practice in their DNA.  I have been on the SPG Committee since the 1970s (it cannot find enough volunteers to displace me, albeit that I wish it would) and have a soft spot for it.  Nathan has been on the SPG Committee since 1990 and now generously hosts our meetings at his offices, so he has become a good friend of mine.

I get a lot of fun out of volunteering.  I also learn a lot.  In particular my involvement with the ICAEW Tax Faculty forces me to keep abreast of tax changes and to read HMRC Consultation papers to be aware of likely future changes.  So volunteering is really a two-way street.  I put in time and get out knowledge (OK, I’m not very good at metaphors but you know what I mean).

If any reader of this blog would like to volunteer but does not know how to start, feel free to e-mail me and I’ll help you.  If you are a London ICAEW member, I hope that you will vote for Nathan as I think that his being on Council is good news for small practitioners – and I suspect for London Chartered Accountants in general too.



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