A story for Halloween

 In Information

You would not normally expect an Accountant’s website to contain a ghost story. What follows below happened over 20 years ago when I was working with Rick Hildebrand.

At the time, we had a client who I will call Mr Kaminsky, which was not his real name.  He was an elderly Eastern European gentleman who had been born around the beginning of the 20th Century and lived through the Russian Revolution, World War 1, the rise of communism and fascism, the forced collectivisation of Soviet agriculture, the camps, the gulags, and the Cold War. He had managed to escape and come to live in England. He earned his living by buying and selling old documents and other historical memorabilia to supplement his pension.

Whenever we gave him any advice on what he could do to increase his income or decrease his tax, his stock response was a world-weary sigh.  “Ah, Mr Hildebrand”, he would say.  “I am 93 years old.  What does it matter?”

In course of time Mr Kaminsky died.  We then got a letter from Maida Vale Tax Office.  According to their letter, Mr Kaminsky had left a substantial estate worth more the one million pounds, situated outside the UK. It was being sold off peacemeal without probate having been obtained.  What, asked Maida Vale Tax Office, were we going to do about it?  We read the letter with mounting astonishment.  As far as we were aware, Mr Kaminsky had been as poor as a church mouse.

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We asked his sons if they knew anything about it, and they did not. They suggested, maybe their dad must have had some enemies when he was younger. These enemies could have written some nonsense to the Tax Office in order to get back at him.

We then wrote back to Maida Vale Tax Office.  We said to them that we had not the slightest idea where to look to find whatever it was that Mr Kaminsky had allegedly left behind when he died. None of his family had any idea as to how to help us.  Could they please give us some sort of a clue as to what direction to look in? For a long time there was no response.

Then we took a call from somebody at Maida Vale Tax Office regarding Mr Kaminsky.  The Tax Officer said, “Were you aware that there had been a fire?”

It appears there had indeed been a fire at Maida Vale Tax Office just after they wrote us the letter.  Many of their files had been completely burnt up.

“I have Mr Kaminsky’s file in my hand,” said the Tax Officer.  “It is a few pieces of burnt paper in a plastic wallet.  There is no hope we can get any further on this, so I am closing the case”.

We never found out how the fire started.  Rick and I could both imagine Mr Kaminsky’s ghost, floating around Maida Vale Tax Office, laughing as his file went up in smoke.

– By Stephen Handley, FCCA

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