My brilliant career

Plastic swan in legal attire

Until I was eleven I was convinced that I was going to be the first woman in space but then Valentina Tereshkova beat me to it on Vostok 6 so I had to change course.  Careers advice was thin on the ground at my school.  No call for it really since we were expected either to become teachers or to work in the local tax office.

I suppose that I stumbled into a career in the law, although, worryingly, the signs may have been there early on.  For example, I was given detention by my ‘O’ level Latin teacher for refusing to accept the received translation of a passage in the Iliad that Achilles had been ‘locked in his tent’ (I argued in favour of what I regarded as the more accurate ‘confined to’ on the grounds that the lock was not invented until the ninth century AD).

As an adolescent I devoured the works of A P Herbert, in particular, his Misleading Cases and the Rumpole books of John Mortimer.  Many of the Misleading Cases featured the exploits of that tireless litigant, Albert Haddock (no relation to Captain Haddock).

One of the best-known of the Misleading Cases, and my favourite when I was about fourteen, is Board of Inland Revenue v. Haddock, also known as ‘The Negotiable Cow’.  In this case, Haddock had been in disagreement with the Collector of Taxes over the size of his tax bill complaining that the sum was excessive, particularly in view of the inadequate consideration given by the Government in exchange for his tax payment.  Eventually the Collector demanded £57 and 10 shillings.  Haddock appeared at the offices of the Collector of Taxes and delivered a white cow ‘of malevolent aspect.’ On the cow was stencilled in red ink:

‘To the London and Literary Bank, Limited

Pay the Collector of Taxes, who is no gentleman, or Order, the sum of fifty seven pounds £57/0/0 (and may he rot!)


Haddock tendered the cow in payment of his tax bill and demanded a receipt.  The Collector declined the cow, objecting that it would be impossible to pay it into a bank account. Haddock suggested that the Collector endorse the cow to a third party to whom he owed money.  Eventually Haddock led the cow away and was arrested in Trafalgar Square for causing an obstruction, leading to the criminal case, R. v Haddock.

During the hearing of the case, the fictitious judge, Sir Basil String, asked whether stamp duty had been paid on the cheque (as was required at that time). The prosecutor, Sir Joshua Hoot KC, confirmed that a two-penny stamp had been affixed to the cow’s right horn. Sir Joshua informed the court that the Collector had tried to endorse the cheque however, Sir Joshua explained ‘The cow … appeared to resent endorsement and adopted a menacing posture.”

I’ve yet to be offered livestock in payment for my services, but at least I managed to sidestep a career in the Selby tax office (closed in August 1986) and I’d have been a useless teacher.

So what awaits at the end of a tax lawyer’s career rainbow? One of my friends, a retired educational psychologist, warns that if I’m not careful I’ll end up in a twilight home for the terminally pedantic.

Doesn’t sound too bad to me.

Tax lawyer specialising in business tax, SDLT and VAT

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