Absent minded solicitors

The US tax system gives various benefits to those with dependants. The more dependants, the lower the final tax bill will be.

Previously, tax payers had to do no more than give the names of their dependants in their tax return to benefit. In 1987 a change was made so that tax payers had to give the Social Security number of each dependent being declared. Overnight seven million children disappeared (see page 21 of Freakonomics).

Japan has long been hailed for the longevity of its citizens, with official figures showing 40,000 centenarians. Earlier this year officials went to congratulate Tokyo’s oldest man on his 111th birthday. They found his mummified body lying in his bed. He had been dead for 30 years. Subsequent enquiries revealed that Tokyo’s oldest women had been missing for decades (see link). It appears that relatives in Japan have been too busy continuing to collect pensions on behalf of their elderly relatives to remember to advise the authorities of their deaths.

These two examples reveal the propensity of humans to be less than honest when they think nobody is looking.

Now, claimant solicitors, being officers of the court, would never be deliberately dishonest. However, they do have a tendency to do the costs equivalent of inadvertently miscounting the number of children they have or forget that their grandmother is no longer alive and her mummified body is now lying in the spare bedroom.

I therefore have a modest proposal. There are currently a number of legal costs related pilots being conducted. Let’s introduce a further one in a handful of courts whereby whenever a bill of costs is served copies of all retainer documents and all timesheets are to be served with it. I wonder if this will produce a sudden miraculous drop in the amounts being claimed.

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