News in Brief – 15 January

PW hits back at DTI claim

Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse this week hit back at claims the Department of Trade and Industry and Bank of England had written to the European Commission, warning that the firm’s merger would severely restrict audit competition in the financial services sector. PW, responding to reports the DTI and the Bank had opposed the merger, said their fears were unfounded and that both had missed the reason behind the merger.

SPI plea rejected

The government has rejected a Society of Practitioners of Insolvency plea for insolvencies to be excluded from tougher TUPE rules in order to promote the rescue culture. Ministers intend to make reform rules protecting employees during the sale of businesses or privatisations one of the UK’s aims during its six-month presidency of the European Union.

PKF loses Scots office

Pannell Kerr Forster, the UK’s ninth largest firm, has sold its Aberdeen office to Deloitte & Touche, in a move that has seen the transfer of Pannells’ staff and offices to the Big Six firm. Pannells, which is due to release its second set of annual results next week, sold its troubled Newcastle office in 1996.

Ward wins nominations

Price Waterhouse partner Graham Ward has secured his nomination to become vice-president of the English ICA next year. The move means that Ward, deputy chairman of PW’s world energy group, will become institute president in June 2000.

Pricing plan to raise costs

Plans to modernise transfer pricing legislation will not keep compliance costs as low as possible, ACCA claims. In its response to the Inland Revenue, the association argues the department’s plans will raise compliance costs and create ‘very high levels’ of additional work.

Bad directors double

Almost three-quarters of a million company directors have been involved with at least one failed company according to research by information services group Experian. The results also indicated 7% of the total number of directors – or 202,000 – are ‘serial failures’, double the number 3 years ago.

Car park tax ‘misguided’

Government plans to treat company car parks as a benefit in kind have been condemned by leasing company Masterdrive. The rental specialists urged Chancellor Gordon Brown to think again before his Spring Budget, claiming his environmental objectives were ‘misguided’.

Deloittes’ French merger

Deloitte and Touche Tohmatsu has merged with French accountancy practice Calan Ramolino to create a national firm with 2,300 staff and a turnover of FRF 1,600m (#167m). The link follows Deloittes’ autumn tie-up with law firm Thomas Associes to form one of France’s biggest legal practices. Prosecution risk raised

Businesses are increasing the risk of prosecution when targeted by the Inland Revenue for tax investigations if they allow the department to proceed without employing a specialist legal adviser. Solicitors Dibb Lupton Alsop claim accountants and in-house lawyers are not qualified to handle anything more than routine enquiries. The firm said non-independent legal advisers might be prevented from attending interviews under caution.

Dealer jailed for VAT fraud

Hatton Garden gold dealer Geoffrey Mann, 43, who famously helped recover four pairs of cufflinks and a stick pin stolen from the Prince of Wales was jailed last week for a #3m VAT fraud. Mann returned the jewellery in 1994 when he realised it was stolen, but a month later was found to have cheated Customs of VAT due on a #20m sale of gold.

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