A new study suggests that most accountants are ripping their clients off, and that if you are a famous actor, musician or performer, the risk increases considerably. This is apparently because famous people are too busy being famous to check to see if their self-employed earnings are being accurately documented. It is also because accounting is a bit like dentistry and car mechanics, in that no one understands it, but everyone needs it.
We visited Bernie, a semi-retired accountant, on his motor yacht in Monaco. “This is absolute nonsense. How dare anyone suggest that the noble profession of accountancy is in any way dodgy.” Bernie takes a sip from a glass of Dom Perignon 2004. “Now get off my boat or I’ll have security throw you off.”
In an ex-council flat in Peckham, London, Tom* is feeling bitter. “I had starring roles in many big TV drama series on the BBC, Channel 4, and a couple on Netflix. I was just about to begin a career in Hollywood when the bailiffs turned up at my house in Hampstead and took everything. Turned out my accountant had been fiddling my tax and pocketing chunks of royalty cheques. It was quite a shock because he’d been recommended by my agent, who had just emigrated to the Cayman Islands.”
The advice from HMRC is that celebrities should do their own self-assessment tax online, because it’s better to completely misunderstand the rules on expenses and pay way more than necessary, than to hand over your entire financial security to a so-called accountant. “Thankfully, the message is getting through to actors, who are now mostly doing their own tax”, said and HMRC spokesman yesterday. “Although apparently it’s now really difficult to hire actors during the last 2 weeks of January.”
*not his real name