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  • Peter Kam Fai Cheung SBS

Be Accountable

Accounting is the comprehensive recording, and the systematic classification and measurement, of a business' financial transactions, assets and liabilities. If you have derived profits or income or pension arising in or derived from Hong Kong, you should have already reported to the taxman, or are in the process of doing so electronically. It used to be a simple process for me, as government had an foolproof account of every cent credited to me.

For the past financial year, I began as an entrepreneur and then a self-employed practising barrister. To report and summarize the financial transactions to the taxman posed a new challenge to me. The process also reminded me of the days when I was reading bookkeeping and accounting to satisfy one of the course requirements initially in my housing management studies in 1979 and then in my postgraduate certificate studies in laws in 1984.

I passed the examinations alright, but I have never put what I learned into practice even for the past year. As a result, I had to mine the supporting evidence, do the delayed entries and analyse the details as if I was the taxman. Meanwhile, the news reported an interesting accounting issue of the Singapore Summit: which country to foot the venue cost if one side thought a 5-star hotel should be good while another side wanted a grander one!

To resolve any complex problem, the key is to break it down into the simplest and manageable items, execute and resolve them one by one, quickly and relentlessly. The strategic way to file a tax return, I believe, is structurally not that different from resolving any political conflict. We trade with others day in and day out - like daybook entries, gain some or lose some - like a profit and loss account, and over a period, we strike a balance - like a balance sheet; and be accountable for all!

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