Let’s get fiscal

Nury Vittachi
Nury Vittachi gives some classic films an accounting twist 

Famous tales retold from an accounting point of view

Nury Vittachi

Hong Kong’s humorist offers a fresh take on some classic films 

It wasn’t the book’s main title, but the smaller, lower headline that caught my attention: “The story of the Medellín drug cartel told by its accountant.”

How odd. True crime stories are always written from the point of view of detectives. Seeing it from the viewpoint of the villain’s accountant was new.

I didn’t buy the book, The Accountant’s Story by Roberto Escobar, but I imagine it includes lots of return-on-investment analyses of shooting deaths compared to murders by decapitation, etc.

It got me thinking. What other stories could be usefully retold from the point of view of accountants? And could specialist accounting knowledge, such as the magic of compound interest, be used in books and movies about time travel, for instance?

Famous stories retold from an accountant’s point of view:

Oedipus Rex: A king kills his father and marries his own mother, causing a tangled inheritance tax loop.

The Lord of the Rings: Frodo Baggins destroys an ancient golden ring stolen from Gollum by his uncle, Bilbo, raising interesting issues of asset ownership and liability.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Drunken adventurer Captain Jack Sparrow wants to recover buried treasure, but lacks the corporate track record needed to raise seed funding from investors for the trip.

Star Wars: Evil villain Darth Vader creates a weapon that destroys whole planets, causing a  massive demand for interstellar liquidation and insolvency specialists.

The Sound of Music: A rich widower marries his children’s nanny and then abandons his mansion to sneak them into another country, raising intriguing issues of asset seizure and illegal immigration.

Pride and Prejudice: The difficulties faced by a family, in which all the children are female, highlighting the patriarchal nature of legacy inheritance laws.

Jurassic Park: Ancient DNA is used to create a theme park with real dinosaurs which then eat the tourists, raising massive liability issues and causing headaches for loss-adjusters and insurance specialists.

Gulliver’s Travels: A hidden population of tiny people who call themselves Lilliputians is found, triggering a question. As they don’t use roads, hospitals, or schools, should they pay tax?

One Hundred and One Dalmatians: A woman wants to kill 101 Dalmatian dogs to use their skins to make a coat. Clearly this huge over-order of raw material makes a rigorous audit process necessary.

Fatal Attraction: A married man has an affair with a woman who then tells him she is pregnant. His financial liability for baby-related expenses is clear, but viewers should also consider whether he should set aside money to pay a fine for adultery, still illegal in many places.

Titanic: On a sinking ship, a third-class passenger (normal ticket price: US$15) demonstrates more nobility than first-class passengers (ticket price: US$150). Some accountants may struggle to understand this storyline.

Avatar: Humans try to steal a valuable substance from a lush, green planet inhabited by a tribe of blue-skinned creatures. The plot highlights the need for the International Criminal Court’s planned financial crimes unit to deal with resource pillage.

The Godfather: A film producer declines to give work to an Italian actor, until he finds the severed head of a horse in his bed. Accountants will immediately spot the issue here. Do unwanted “sweeteners” still count as facilitation payments?

Well, there are a few ideas – readers can probably think of more. But if I had the budget to remake a Hollywood film with a bit of financial awareness thrown in, I would probably do this one:

The Terminator: A robot from the far future travels back in time to perform a political assassination, but takes an hour off to put a few bucks into a bank account offering compound interest. Woohoo!

Nury Vittachi is a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and TV host. He wrote three storybooks for the Institute, May Moon and the Secrets of the CPAs, May Moon Rescues the World Economy and May Moon’s Book of Choices

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