The Beatles’ accountant 50 years on: “They were scruffy boys who didn’t want to pay tax.”

The headline of this recent Telegraph article is a bit overly sensational. Harry Pinsker, the Beatles accountant in the sixties, (now 87) is actually quite nice about the boys. After leaving school in 1947, Harry Pinsker started working for accountants Bryce Hanmer & Co whose London office managed many theatrical clients such as Flanagan and Allen and Arthur Askey. In Liverpool they were the accountants for Harry Epstein’s furniture store, so they were the logical choice for Brian Epstein’s new venture, the Beatles.  

“I first met them in my office – they were just four scruffy boys, I hadn’t heard of them – few people had outside Liverpool. That changed.

“Brian Epstein was charming, and The Beatles were polite and did whatever he told them – although they were naïve. I set up a company, with all of them directors.

“When Brian got The Beatles flats in London, they needed a phone, but you had to wait six months. I was doing a government audit so top secret even I didn’t know what the business was – I later discovered it was guided missiles. But I rang the GPO and said this top secret work needed telephones at four addresses. So The Beatles got their phones within a week.

“We created a songwriting company called Lenmac, which learned counsel deemed an investment company whose revenue was defined as unearned income and subject to higher tax.

“I saw it as a trading company, arguing that if a newspaper was used to wrap fish and chips, it was still a newspaper, so Lennon and McCartney’s songs would always still be songs – and therefore represented earned income. The Inspector of Taxes agreed.

“Early on, the press called them millionaires. I had to clarify to them that their millions were earnings, not assets, and they needed to set aside a lot of those earnings for tax. They were never happy with that – that’s why George wrote Taxman. They’d been poor boys, who’d worked hard and made money, and now someone was trying to take it away.”

[Harry Pinsker]

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It was fifty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you
The act you’ve known for all these years
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Happy 50th Anniversary Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band!