News in Brief – 22 January

Grocer backs interest call

Sainsbury’s has thrown its weight behind the government’s bid to force late payers to add interest to their debt. Company chairman Lord Sainsbury of Turville, its former finance director, claimed the legislation ‘enjoys a wide measure of support across the business community and will be effective’. Trade and Industry Minister Lord Clinton-Davis announced the rate of interest prescribed will be base rate plus 8%.

KPMG drops Swedish tie

KPMG’s Swedish practice has been forced to scrap a cooperation agreement with its associate law firm, Wahlin Adokatbyra. The Swedish bar objected to the association on ‘ethical’ grounds. Meanwhile, Price Waterhouse has secured an unofficial link-up with Belgian law firm Bogaert & Vandemeulebroeke. The two firms will operate on a referral basis.

Baker Tilly joins Summit

Baker Tilly has left BKR International and joined Summit International Associates, the 11th largest global accountancy network, following its merger with Casson Beckman. The move is designed to allow the firm to offer a ‘real alternative’ to the Big Six.

Multinationals face NI blitz

Multinational companies with large numbers of expatriate staff are being targeted by the Contributions Agency in a major blitz on NI contributions, warned KPMG tax advisers. The crackdown comes as part of the government’s ‘Spend to Save’ initiative, which aims to raise an extra #7.5bn of tax revenue.

More power to district audits

District auditors should have wider powers and be able to impose tougher penalties, according to MP Andrew Dinsmore. The former Westminster Council Labour group leader told local government minister Hilary Armstrong district auditors should be allowed to investigate more than financial impropriety. He also asked for the creation of a criminal offence of ‘misconduct in local government’, which could carry the penalty of imprisonment.

MP tables Scots change

Anti-devolution Labour MP Tam Dalyell has tabled an amendment to the Scotland Bill giving Westminster continued rights to ensure financial probity and efficiency in Edinburgh. He wants to keep the Public Accounts Committee machinery in place to investigate any allegations of irregularity or inefficiency – not to devolve this function to a similar committee of the new Scottish parliament.

Lloyd Webber off key

The Government has rejected a plea by Lord Lloyd Webber and Anglican bishops to exempt repairs on church buildings from VAT. Lloyd Webber said it was illogical that heritage bodies received huge grants for this work, only for the Treasury to take 17.5% VAT.

VAT men poles apart

Customs & Excise officers can be poles apart on certain VAT issues, according to Chartered Institute of Taxation Research. Inconsistency of approach between VAT offices was highlighted as the main problem by both CIoT members and Customs officers.

Robinson hits back

Paymaster Geoffrey Robinson is planning to counter Tory jibes of ‘hypocrisy’ over his tax-avoiding offshore trusts. Speculation that he is considering new rules outlawing the device followed a statement by Treasury Chief Secretary Alistair Darling. He told MPs offshore trusts are being considered as part of the wide-ranging review of tax by the Chancellor.

Closer ties to cut EU fraud

The National Audit Office should build a closer relationship with its European counterparts and the European Court of Auditors, said Lib Dem MP David Heath. Heath, a former member of the audit commission, said closer ties would reduce the #3bn of fraud identified by this year’s EU audit. The government said the proposal was too bureaucratic.

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