I had been looking forward to a quiet end of year period, but life has a way of tampering with my expectations. Two weeks ago, our CEO walked into my office looking angry and waving a letter in my face as he said, “Josphat, what is this? What is happening?”
Sometimes I feel like our CEO gets too melodramatic and overreacts over simple issues. I guessed that this was one such occasion and so I asked him to see the letter. He handed, rather threw, the letter and said, “I cannot believe that you are not aware of this.”
Only when I read the letter did I get to understand why the CEO was so agitated.
The letter was a demand note from the revenue collectors who are demanding more than Sh50 million in unpaid taxes.
I could understand his fury, but I pointed out to him: “Sir, this demand note is to you the person, not the company.”
Surely, it is a no-brainer that such a demand should be handled on a personal not company level.
The CEO was still upset as he said “That might be true, but I had told these HR people to deal with my tax situation.”
I was tempted to respond and say, “But surely you know HR is the most useless department ever!” I stayed mute and let him rant.
It turns out that our CEO was going through a divorce a few years ago. He said: “I did not want my wife at the time getting to know what I really earned and owned so I asked HR to do some creative accounting — nothing illegal of course.”
I was not sure what the Boss wanted me to say or do at this time, so I quietly asked him to ask HR people “to get to the bottom of this and deal with revenue authority.”
He laughed saying “they are the ones who have put me in this mess, I cannot ask them to fix it.”
I am always hesitant to offer any solutions to the Boss for he always turns around and makes it my responsibility. So, I sat and patiently waited for the CEO to share his thoughts.
After whining about the revenue authority for over 20 minutes, he said: “I need your help, my man!”
He continued: “You must have a friend who can help me manage this mess. I need an accountant/tax consultant who can help me get this mess behind me — of course, and must do it discreetly.”
To be honest, I could sort out my CEO in a heartbeat since I could easily see the loopholes in his tax filings — but I was not fully convinced that he was telling me the full truth. I was also not sure I wanted to get involved with such work in December.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that if I sorted him out, he would owe me forever and I could use that to my advantage.
I told him: “I will ask among my former collegemates and colleagues and then let you know.”
He smiled, saying he “really appreciate your help, but also keep it confidential the less people know, the better.”
Over the next few days I managed to get three of my collegemates who are tax consultants to meet the CEO outside the office.
The CEO came to me and told me: “I have decided to engage your pal Nathan, he seems like he knows what he is doing.”
Despite the CEO’s new-found confidence in me, I had decided to cover my bases.
I told him: “Now that you have engaged Nathan, I will stay out of the picture lest there is ever a case of conflict of interest.”
He said: “I hear you, but I do not think that will ever arise.” And I responded: “Of course, I doubt it will, but you can never be too sure, so let us not talk about your tax issues at all.” He shook my hand to seal our agreement.
He should know, one must never trust people with tax issues.