News in brief.

Clive Parritt, chairman of mid-tier firm Baker Tilly, is quitting to join independent corporate finance house The Business Exchange as chief executive. Parritt has been managing partner of the firm since 1986, becoming chairman in 1996. The Business Exchange was set up by Douglas Llambias, the high-profile corporate marriage broker, who has been behind several accountancy firm mergers. Llambias will become chairman of the company, which he hopes to float within five years. Parritt, 57, said: ‘I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and increased my involvement in corporate finance deals.’ Baker Tilly said the process of selecting a new chairman was underway and that an announcement was expected next month.

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Speculation is growing that 6 March will be the date for this year’s Budget. Sources in parliament believe the chancellor Gordon Brown may even make an announcement today (Thursday) but there is no confirmation as yet.

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The National Audit Office has revealed that taxpayers could have overpaid the Inland Revenue up to #22m as a result of clearing PAYE records for 1997-98. In its report on the Revenue’s accounts for 1999-2000, the NAO has urged the department to alert taxpayers of the possible mistake. At the same time, the NAO revealed a possible #4m in underpayment through the PAYE system.

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In an effort to prevent the formation of a statutory regulator, the Big Five accountancy firms have reached agreement with the US Securities & Exchange Commission on a new charter for the Public Oversight Board. The firms were helped by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants which hopes its review of POB powers will stop the SEC from establishing a new watchdog with far reaching powers of enforcement, similar to the National Association of Securities Dealers.

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A tax barrister has been found guilty of cheating the public purse out of nearly #3.2m and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Michael Richard Stannard, 51, of Tivoili Street, Cheltenham, was sentenced last week at Southwark Crown Court after being found guilty of claiming a deduction against profits for interest paid in advance in respect of Bonnington Shipping and Fairflight when no such transactions had taken place. Stannard was also found to have furnished false information on the company’s debenture bonds for the accounts knowing they might be misleading or false.

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Claire Ighodaro has been nominated as vice-president of CIMA’s council for 2001/2002, subject to approval at its annual general meeting. Ighodaro, 47, is currently financial controller at BT Openworld, having joined the telecommunications company in 1985. CIMA president Mike Jeans said the nomination reflected the considerable contribution Ighodaro had made as chair of the institute’s international committee and as a council member.

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The European Commission has formally proposed that all listed EU companies conform their accounting practices in accordance with the International Accounting Standards (IAS). If agreed by EU ministers, this requirement will come into force no later than 2005. Brussels has asked ministers to also consider the option of extending the requirement to unlisted companies as well. Adopting IAS practices will make cross barrier trading in securities easier by having comparable company accounts across the EU.

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The Accountancy Foundation has announced the new chairmen of its operational boards. Ian Plaistow, Arthur Andersen’s European head of assurance, will chair the new Auditing Practices Board. Christopher Jonas, former senior partner of chartered surveyors Drivers Jonas, will be the chair of the new Ethics Standards Board and Michael Fogden, chairman of the National Blood Authority, will be chair of the new Investigation and Discipline Board.

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Clarification: Last week we reported on page 2 that ACCA is set to open its council meetings to the public for the first time in its history. ACCA has asked us to point out the meetings will be open to the public only ‘for consideration of regulatory matters’.

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