We’ve dusted down the mortar boards to write the mid-term reports. Who is top of the class?
Fiona Hotston Moore, partner, Crowe Clark Whitehill: Under her tenure, CCW has risen up the audit league table according to Hemscott, which has ranked the firm 11th, up three places from 14th a year ago. She has also co-founded a group of business people looking at why so few women sit on boards.
Oliver Tant, head of audit, KPMG: Tant shone this year after masterminding the design of an extended audit package. Originally shunned by peers, the idea has gradually gained acceptance and there are rumours of endorsement from the FRC. Tant is dogged in the defence of the Big Four’s market position and could find conditions difficult this year as the OFT launches its investigation into audit and commissioner Barnier takes a long, hard look at the market.
Michel Barnier, European commissioner for internal market and services: Barnier continues to work hard at his stated aim of ending the audit status quo. Debate continues on the future of the audit market and it is likely he will spearhead some bold conclusions. February saw the publication of responses to the consultation launched last year, Barnier revealing that more than 700 were received; he will be very busy over the next few months. Firms remain deeply interested in the conclusions, showing Barnier remains a commanding figure. The findings the report – due this autumn – will be the real test of his metal.
John Whiting, tax director, Office of Tax Simplification: Whiting’s OTS report did not disappoint those expecting fireworks. The headline, a proposed merger of National Insurance and income tax, was widely welcomed in the accountancy world; Chancellor George Osborne promised to review the possibility in the Budget. But this was a false dawn. Osborne’s stipulation that he would not review the contributory principle of NI left Whiting “disappointed”. Solace was to be found in the OTS’s next review on the tax administration system for small businesses – if he gets the job full time.
Mary Schapiro, chairman, US Securities and Exchange Commission: Schapiro has until the end of the year to give the nod on convergence of US GAAP with IFRS but she has not been idle. A recent SEC staff paper on convergence signposted the level of work and commitment at the US regulator, while experts predict more will be produced before the decision is taken late this year. Schapiro remains determined to represent the interests of her country and is prone to stubbornness, but she consistently produces high-quality work and is popular with her peers.
Peter Mitchell, chairman, Society of Professional Accountants: Mitchell will be delighted that SPA members are so involved in the ICAEW’s interest group. More involvement in easing the regulatory burden on smaller practices is a key issue for Mitchell in the short term. He will hope that this fight will help to boost membership to the SPA over the longer term.
Michael Izza, chief executive, ICAEW: A busy six months for the institute has seen it relaunch its practice members’ service and most recently introduce an SME advice centre. Legal professional privilege is an ongoing issue for the institute. Member grumblings about the size and form of its council have also continued. Izza would have noted with interest CIMA’s tie-up with US accountants. He also stuck up for the audit profession after the Lords’ withering comments. ICAEW’s global reach is constantly in his thoughts.
Tim Bush, accounting activist: Bush continues his diatribe against IFRS and he seems to have allies in the House of Commons, as an MP recently tabled an anti-IFRS private members Bill. Actively seeks opportunities to further his agenda – the current Ireland Central Bank debate on provisioning for losses is a good example – and works tirelessly to air his views. A private individual who likes to influence from the sidelines and risks making enemies, we will undoubtedly be hearing more from him in the coming months.
Paul Druckman, co-chairman, International Integrated Reporting Committee working group: The former ICAEW president has been busy with environmental reporting. The IIRC working group has met several times this year to bash out a soon-to-be released accounting framework that will allow businesses to incorporate environmental data into its financial reports. Green reporting hit the headlines earlier this month when sports retailer Puma unveiled the world’s first global environmental profit and loss account.
Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax, HM Revenue & Customs: Grillings in the media and Parliament over service levels and the low morale of staff have not helped Hartnett’s job. But credit where it is due. Despite huge budget cuts, HMRC is raising far more revenue through its increasingly aggressive stance. If he hits his target of £7bn extra revenue a year, he won’t care about his popularity. Will the “tax agent strategy” mark the beginning of better relations with the accountancy profession?
UK Uncut: Spectacularly came into the spotlight last year after its protests against Vodafone. It had similar success after highlighting the low amount of corporation tax paid by Barclays this year. Has been quiet since despite the establishment of a bizarre counter-group in favour of the government, though scored some publicity points from targeting the U2 lead singer Bono. Staying targeted on individual cases rather than an all-encompassing “big business is bad” approach is the key to its success.
Roger Marshall, interim chairman, Accounting Standards Board: A huge response to the SME accounting reform plans sounds great, yet a huge chunk of them came from just two sectors that were mainly critical. Marshall is still faced with a bewildering set of alternatives to the current three-tier standards proposal, some of which don’t even involve three tiers.
George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer: Osborne’s fiscally neutral March Budget was toasted by advisors thanks to, among other things: the surprise cut in corporation tax; confirmation that the 50% top rate of tax was temporary; establishment of a statutory residency test; and reforms to controlled foreign companies legislation. The oil and gas windfall tax lost him much goodwill, though, while another negative came from the IMF, which revised its 2011 growth figure to 1.5% from 2% following poor indicators. He’s gambled on growth, but the gamble is not yet paying off.
Jayne Archbold, managing director accountants’ division, Sage: The introduction of new tax technology (iXBRL) caused Sage headaches, needing a third party to help it through the process before coming up with its own solution at the death. Its all-singing all-dancing version is due later this year.
Alan Johnson MP, shadow chancellor: Hugely respected and a great speaker, Johnson found himself at loggerheads with Labour leader Ed Milliband on policy. His cringeworthy National Insurance stumbles on Sky News preceded stories about his private life and he stepped down before January was out.
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