The Tax Man – an interview with Richard Thornton (10 March 2005)

Introduction

It has only been less than two years since Richard Thornton and I became friends. We live in the same apartment complex and I have come to admire him for his intelligence and meticulous research into any given topic and his abilities in interior decorating! Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce to you, Richard Thornton, The Tax Man.


Aneeta: Hello Richard. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Richard: Hello Aneeta. I am flattered that you find me interesting enough to interview.

Aneeta: Everyone has an interesting story to tell Richard. That’s why I created this column – to discover these people! Now, Richard, I know you were born and brought up in the UK. Do tell us a little about your childhood and youth and where you grew up.

Richard: Yes, what you say is true. My birthplace is an industrial city in the North of England. We were working class people, and class mattered in those days. I was lucky because my generation was the first to be given the opportunity to progress on the basis of ability. The school that I attended was upgraded in my last year there and that gave me a leg-up because I was able to produce a “grammar school” certificate. Life was not easy. I grew up through the years of the 1930s Depression and the years of the Second World War with its austerity. Our expectations were not high though and we made the most of what we had. There was a good community spirit and I had some good friends. As kids, we used to go to the local greengrocer and buy a half-penny boiled beetroot. Sweets and chocolate were out of the question because of rationing.

Aneeta: Boiled beetroot? Hmmm…

Now, Richard, I know that you are a qualified accountant. Did you always want to be an accountant or did you ‘fall into’ the profession?

Richard: Like many young people I thought I should do accountancy because I was good at maths. By the time I discovered that maths is only one of many skills that you need to be good accountant I was too far in to change my mind. However, something I did discover is that tax is more challenging than accountancy. After qualifying I began to specialise in tax more and more until I dropped accountancy altogether.

Aneeta: When did you move to Malaysia and how long have you lived here now?

Richard: Sometimes I cannot believe that I came to Malaysia over twenty years ago. I started with the idea that it would be interesting to spend a few years in a comfortable post in an exotic location. When the posting expired and I should have left I didn’t want to go and just stayed on. I had to look for work to support myself but my tax knowledge and background stood me in good stead and I was able to develop a career specialising in Malaysian tax.

Aneeta: Always in Kuala Lumpur?

Richard: I began and ended in Kuala Lumpur but I have lived in various places in the meantime. There was spell of two years or so in Kajang about ten years ago when I did a stint as Visiting Professor at the National University. Kajang seemed like a place far away from Kula Lumpur at that time but now it seems to have become like just another suburb. I also spent some time in Pahang, firstly in Kuantan and then in Temerloh. I have always wanted to live by the sea and I almost achieved it. If you know Kuantan you will remember that it is near to but not quite ‘on’ the sea.

Aneeta: I know that you are a published author. So please tell us a little about your books:

Richard:

Title: Thornton’s Malaysian Tax Commentaries
ISBN: 983-2631-22-X
Publisher Sweet & Maxwell Asia
Price: RM185.00

Title: 100 Ways to Save Tax in Malaysia – 2nd Edition
ISBN: 983-2631-23-8
Publisher Sweet & Maxwell Asia
Price: RM95.00

Title: Satisfying Karen’s Curiosity – Q & A on Personal Taxation in Malaysia
ISBN: 983-2631-38-6
Publisher Sweet & Maxwell Asia
Price: RM49.00

Richard: These books are available in MPH Bookstores nationwide. My books are about tax and that is a subject that most people find quite uninteresting. However, I like to think that as an expert I have a responsibility to inform people and share with them the benefit of my knowledge. That is why I have produced a book like Satisfying Karen’s Curiosity by which I hope to bring knowledge to non-technical people in an interesting and entertaining way by using a conversational style.

Aneeta: Tell us about the process of writing these books – did you enjoy it. Was it difficult.

Richard: The thing that makes writing difficult when you are writing on a technical topic is the need for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Literary licence is not excusable. You ask whether I enjoyed the writing. I think the answer is that I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes from producing something that somebody else will read but you only begin to feel that towards the end when you see your work taking shape.

Aneeta: Have you ever considered writing books of other genre, like novels and so on?

Richard: Yes I have. I have lived a long and varied life and there are lots of stories in my head but I am not sure that other people would want to read about them. I admire the skills of writers who can tell a story from their imagination in such a clever way that readers are spellbound. That is true artistry.

Aneeta: As you may well be aware, here on this site, and through our newsletter,

Great StoryTelling Network!, we aim to give a voice to storytellers and also a platform for everyone to participate and create a melting pot of people who then share their ideas, resources and thoughts. Can you then, share with us your thoughts on what advice we should give to those who are hesitant about taking the first step to realise their dreams?

Richard: Everybody is different. Each of us has unique experiences and ideas which are others can benefit from, and the very act of sharing our knowledge enriches us.

Aneeta: I think that should do it. I thank you very much for agreeing to this interview.

Richard: My pleasure.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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