Obituary: Victor Durkacz
VALUE ADDED TAX is not a popular tax, and few who administer it or advise on it do not have reservations about disclosing the nature of their work to neighbours or even friends. Victor Durkacz needed to have no such reservations.
Durkacz's innate honesty and reasonableness left people with the feeling that in whatever activity he was engaged he would bring to it standards that would always be of the best. His death at the age of 40 is not only a tragedy for his family and friends, but represents the loss of a man who, in a cynical world, was not only supremely effective in what he did, but who set the highest ethical standards, which influenced both those involved in administering VAT and those involved in it.
Durkacz recognised the importance of the new-fangled tax before most accountants and lawyers. Having gained a First Class degree in history at Dundee University and a doctorate, the substance of which appeared as a book, The Decline of Celtic Languages (1983), he left the academic world behind and became Director, National VAT Services, at KMG Thomson McLintock in 1985. He later became Group Manager of Deloitte Haskins and Sells Scottish Customs and Excise Group, and finally in 1987 formed his own company, Durkacz and Co, to offer specialist VAT consultancy services.
His first major impact on the VAT world was the thesis he submitted for his Fellowship of the Institute of Taxation - forbiddingly entitled 'VAT Planning for Land and Property Transactions following the 1984 Finance Act'. It was never going to be a bestseller, but nearly everybody engaged on VAT obtained a copy. When VAT advisers or administrators met, it became the subject of a game in which status points could be obtained by identifying errors in the thesis: very few such points were ever gained.
Durkacz was a member of the editorial board of Taxation, and on the Institute of Taxation's Indirect Tax sub-committee. He was also a long-time editor of the monthly publication VAT Intelligence. His more immediate impact on VAT thinking however was in the direct contributions he made to Taxation and to VAT Intelligence. His articles clarified new problems and resolved old ones, and also continually impressed on the revenue authorities the need to administer VAT fairly. Many arguments on major VAT issues included the phrase: 'But Victor says'.
Durkacz never lost a case at a VAT Tribunal. This record is impressive enough in itself, but was made more so by the manner of its achievement. It was very much a matter of diligence and intelligence giving David a victory over Goliath.
The most enduring memory of Victor Durkacz for those who work in VAT is that, in an extremely competitive field, he found time to help other practitioners and do it in such a way that it raised the status of the people he helped. When the VAT Practitioners Group, a collection of accountants, lawyers and other tax practitioners which had come together to seek to ensure that VAT is applied in as equitable and practical manner as possible, set up a Chapter in Scotland, Durkacz naturally became its first chairman. He was concerned with doing things well, but also with doing things properly. Virtually everybody who works on VAT as an administrator or as an adviser owes a debt to him.
VAT was not, of course, all Durkacz's life. He was a quiet person with a wry sense of humour. He was also a devoted family man. He liked nothing better than spending time with his wife, Mary, and young daughters, Katherine and Laura, at their cottage in the country overlooking Trapain Law on the one side and Berwick Law and the sea on the other.
Latest in News
From the blogs
Take inspiration from the green-fingered brigade who have been showing off their creativity at the R...
There are more empty shops on our high streets than ever before, says another report into the state ...
The guard has changed at Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years. Meanwhile, down the road, the ...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
That's some guestlist! Stunning images show huge dynastic wedding between Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families which attracted 25,000 guests
Exclusive: Woolwich attack suspect attended meetings of banned Islamist group - and were known by security services
'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
World news in pictures
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 1 Exclusive: Woolwich attack suspect attended meetings of banned Islamist group - and were known by security services
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.