weekly news focus: Practice

The UK investigation by the Office of Fair Trading is being carried out after the government raised fears about partnerships of lawyers and accountants keeping fees artificially high.

Under scrutiny are rules that prevent law or accountancy firms from advertising or competiting on price, and laws which force people to use qualified professionals for certain activities.

The effects could be quite far-reaching, potentially speeding up the process of allowing legal and accountancy firms to form multi-disciplinary partnerships. Might we also see accountancy firms taking adverts in the press advertising cut-price audits?

In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission, already notorious for forcing the resignation of a British PwC partner because he was related to a finance chief at an audit client, has turned its sights on firms who offer tax shelter advice to audit clients.

Also this week, the government has taken PricewaterhouseCoopers to task over its estimates of what the double tax changes in the Budget will cost British firms. After the bullish statements which led to the clash, the firm has now clammed up.

Other news includes a potential out-of-court settlement in the war between the sister Andersen firms, and that Richard Simons, senior partner of North London practice Ricard Anthony & Co, has stepped into the breach after the FD of Milton Keynes bowling alley and snooker hall group resigned after accounting errors were discovered at the company.

Features include a look at whether Alex Allan, the government’s e-envoy.

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