Obituary: Philip Hardman
Wednesday 13 January 1993
PHILIP HARDMAN was a tax expert. He also possessed that most elusive and awesome of talents - the ability to combine a supreme technical mastery of his subject with the facility to demystify it for the man in the street. One of the greatest authorities in his field, he will also be remembered as one of life's natural communicators.
He was a familar figure to BBC audiences. As the resident tax expert, he was part of David Dimbleby's television panel of annual Budget commentators, while Radio 4 listeners regularly tuned in to Money Box to hear him dispense down-to-earth advice on how to sort out their personal tax problems.
To hammer his points home, Hardman created a whole world of mythical people - complete with age, habits and life histories - whose turn it was to be blessed by the Chancellor. He was well aware of the power of fun in helping to dispel fears.
As Senior Tax Partner at Grant Thornton, where I am Managing Partner, and as holder of several senior posts at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Hardman was for a quarter of a century at the forefront of debate on the UK taxation system. He was a regular and highly respected adviser to government and in 1992 was appointed to the DTI Deregulation Advisory Panel by the then City Minister John Redwood. A tireless campaigner for simplification of the tax system, he was able to combine a delight in complexity with a desire to make things easier for the layman.
He once told me how he first became interested in numbers. As a child in Bolton, he used to watch his father entering family expenditure details in a ledger. The figures and the patterns they made on the paper had a powerful, almost magical, effect on him. Apparently, a similar experience happened to the composer Benjamin Britten, and it was this fascination with dots on a stave which ultimately helped Britten to write music.
After attneding Bolton Grammar School and taking articles locally, Hardman joined Cooper Brothers (now Coopers and Lybrand). He joined Grant Thornton in 1961, based first in Leicester and then in London. In 1978 he became Chairman of the UK Taxation Committee at the ICAEW, and in 1991 was a founder member of its Faculty of Taxation. Last year Hardman's standing was recognised by Nottingham University, which appointed him Special Professor in the School of Management and Finance.
As a lecturer he was in great demand, and would delight audiences by introducing music-hall irreverence to the proceedings, on occasions even stage-managing fake telephone calls of complaint from the Chancellor. Broadcasting was to him simply another medium in which he could convey his knowledge and enthusiasm. However he realised early on that he had to play by the rules of the game. Apparently, when auditioned by BBC Television he was appalled to learn that the person before him had spent two horrifying minutes of silence consulting a calculator when asked for a snap assessment - a mistake he would never have made.
Hardman undertook valuable pioneering work for several disaster funds such as the Hillsborough crowd disaster and the Bradford FC fire. In his spare time, when not travelling the UK lecturing, he wrote and regularly updated what he regarded as his key achievement - the now standard reference work Hardman on Tax in Business (1985).
Philip Hardman was a perfectionist who simply could not understand why shoddiness should exist and expected the highest standards from those who worked for him, but in social situations he was witty and playful. Bluff, lovable and mischievous, he commanded extraordinary loyalty. He set the highest of standards for the next generation of tax consultants and that is a legacy with which he would have been proud. He was a loving husband to his wife Rosemary and to his three daughters, Sue, Caroline and Rachael.
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