BOFH: But we think the UK tax authorities would be VERY interested in how we used COVID support packages

Or we could just all contract a little amnesia...


BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 5 "We'd just like some explanations of this spending," the Head Beancounter says, slapping a wadge of printouts onto my desk.

"Uh, let's see. Laptops... some wireless mice and keyboards, monitors, etc. Yep, COVID things."

"Yes, you say it's a COVID thing but a lot of these purchases are from before COVID," he says.

"Yeah, that was you guys. You told us to bring them forward into the March 2021 year end's accounts."

"No we didn't. Anyway, some of this stuff was from last week!"

"Yeah you did. Then about a month ago you said to backdate any current purchases against 'long COVID' if we thought they'd fly.."

"We did not!" he gasps unconvincingly.

"Sure you did. We'll still have the emails you sent about it."

"I don't think so."

"Course we do. We don't delete any email like that. And - more importantly - our mailers are configured to ignore message recalls."

A hint of 'forest fruits' permeates the room as the Head Beancounter's antiperspirant kicks into turbo.

"No, we said THAT FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME we would be accounting for new hardware that people required - for business continuity purposes - as a COVID expense," he blurts hurriedly.

"There... wouldn't happen to be an auditor in the building would there?" I ask. "Some representative of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs service want to fine-tooth-comb through our COVID expenses?"

"What makes you say that?" he snaps back a little too quickly.

"Wasn't you who said an audit was on the furthest realms of possibility," I say. "Something about how they'd have 'bigger fish to fry' and all that..."

"I don't know who..."

"And then in this year's interim financial report, didn't you say that the astute guidance of the financials group had kept the company out of trouble - though perhaps not out of court?"

...

"Obviously we're not accusing anyone of any wrongdoing" the auditor lies. "We're just trying to make sure that all these expenses are correctly identified. Ultimately it'll be good for both the company and the country."

"Only too happy to help," I say. "As a taxpayer myself I'm very keen to ensure that my hard earned money is being spent correctly."

Out of the corner of my eye I can see the Head Beancounter dabbing at his collar as the room starts to smell like potpourri.

"You paid.. £70 for a wired mouse and keyboard?"

"Yes, it was all we could get. Because of COVID," the PFY says

"The same keyboard and mouse set currently retails for £19."

"We know," I sigh. "We had to get them for people."

"You bought... 213 of them," he says, pulling a tatty receipt from the pile.

"Yes, because of COVID."

"STOP SAYING BECAUSE OF COVID! You bought 213 keyboard sets in one day at 70 quid each. That's over £14,000."

"One of our cleaners got sick," I say. "They might have touched all the keyboards and mice."

"Couldn't you have sterilised them?"

"With the cleaning stuff the cleaners had touched?" the PFY asks.

"You could have sterilised that."

"With the price of sterilisers like it was?" I gasp. "It would have been cheaper to use Vodka."

"You bought 2 dozen bottles of Vodka," he says, fingering another receipt.

"Like I said, it was cheaper to use vodka."

"And this was used only for sterilisation?"

"Of course."

"And do you have any proof that it was used for that?"

"None of our staff got sick."

"YOU BOUGHT THEM ALL NEW KEYBOARDS AND MICE!"

"Didn't you just question whether that was worthwhile or not?" I ask. "Though I admit we may have erred on the side of caution in some cases..."

"You're not kidding," he snaps back. "You ordered two replacement office chairs because they were COVID contaminated."

"Yes - in our office. The cleaner sat on them. He.. um.. farted."

"So?"

"Well, you know, COVID germs."

"YOU CAN'T CATCH COVID FROM FARTS!"

"Well we know that NOW," the PFY says. "I only wish we'd known it before we set fire to the van."

"You can't claim any of this!" he snaps back angrily. "It's a transparent attempt to write off a whole stack of business expenses as being some sort of pandemic expense."

"We weren't to know these expenses were unjustified. No one knew how COVID was spread. I mean I wouldn't have dumped that brand new espresso machine if I'd known the operating heat would have killed the germs in about 10 minutes."

"I'm recommending a full audit!" he snaps - while the Head Beancounter suppresses his internal panic after I type the word seppuku into his search tab - "We'll do a full 7-year audit. Any dodgy expense claim, any questionable purchase - we'll be right onto it!"

"Going right back?" the PFY asks, raising an eyebrow. "Any dodgy expense or purchase?"

"You bet! If there's anything to find, we'll find it."

"Well I expect you'll be wanting to see the stairwell that we had to replace because of COVID" he says "We haven't put that claim in yet."

"YOU REPLACED A STAIRCASE BECAUSE OF COVID!" the Auditor gasps.

"Yes, it's just over here..."

...

"That'll be long COVID," I say to the Head Beancounter as a faint scream punctuates Mission Control.

"A tragedy," he nods.

"Do you know if long COVID's communicable - or how it's transmitted?"

"No idea," he says.

"Well, best burn all these receipts then - to be on the safe side..."

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