Letters – 26 February


Self-assessment to date has overall been a giant step backwards. The Inland Revenue has been placed under a great deal of pressure and many local tax offices have suffered a computer failure because of the load on the system.

There has been more work for accountants and for those who have chosen not to be professionally represented.

In spite of all this, representatives from the upper echelons of the Revenue are claiming that the system has been a great success. Those people presumably have not seen the inside of an accountants office or a local tax office.

David Turner, Enfield, Middlesex

The answer to SA is training

I read with interest AD Houghton’s letter (12 February 1998, Accountancy Age).

I would point out that this practice still submits a form 41G with a copy of CWF1 form to H M Inspector of Taxes to ensure a reference number is issued as quickly as possible. The original CWF1 is submitted to the contributions agency as a matter of courtesy, and I have found this registration system works extremely well.

I am surprised that Mr Houghton had to deliver the self-assessment income tax return form, issued 29 January 1998, to the Inland Revenue before 31 January 1998, as if it was not issued until this date it did not need to be sent back until 29 April 1998, in accordance with Inland Revenue legislation.

This highlights the lack of training that most accountants have had with regard to the new self-assessment regime which I find works quite well and over 98% of our clients had their tax returns submitted to the Inland Revenue prior to 30 September 1997.

It would appear from the many whingeing letters from accountants that the problem of self-assessment does not lie with the Inland Revenue but is clearly due to lack of training by accountants.

Samuel Blitz FCA, Ilford, Essex

Professional standards

MA Anderson in his letter (6 February, Accountancy Age) stated that Tim Smith had paid the public price by virtue of losing his political career and as no offences involving professional work as a chartered accountant had been alleged, he should suffer no further punishment.

Surely this misses the point. It is precisely because he is a chartered accountant that he should suffer further! The public has a right to expect certain standards of behaviour from members of the profession in their business lives regardless of the ‘business’ in question.

Glyn Jarvis CPFA, Hockley, Essex

To lose one is bad luck …

Several of your correspondents have laid great store in the observation that Mr Tim Smith did not break the law. They should not overlook that he was condemned by fellow MPs for disregarding their rules, and that the disciplinary tribunal of the council found in respect of the same events that he had improperly accepted and/or concealed receipt of #18,000.

Furthermore he concealed from ministers and officials his pecuniary interest while advancing the interest of his client.

The public surely expects greater probity in a chartered accountant?

To lose one disciplinary hearing may be counted a misfortune. But two, Mr Smith!

Michael R Cotter QSP meets demands

In a report by John Stokdyk in last week’s Accountancy Age (‘QSP jumps on Cognos bandwagon to meet reporting demands’, 12 February) a reference was made to QSP Financials 4.5 supporting 30-100 concurrent users.

In fact, QSP Financials supports up to 2,000 concurrent users on either mainframe or Unix platforms – the 30-100 figure applies only to implementation on Windows NT. This discrepancy is a direct consequence of the relatively low scalability of Windows NT when compared to the mainframe or Unix.

We fully expect Microsoft to develop Windows NT to support larger user populations. In the meantime, we feel it prudent not to make claims about our product that cannot be matched in real-life implementations.

David Pinches, group marketing director, QSP

A return to mediaevalism

In the next 16 years some 2.2 million new homes may be built on greenfield sites, that is on land outside existing town planning boundaries. Greenfield sites will also continue to be re-zoned for commercial building. If greenfield land is worth, say, #3,000 an acre for agriculture, and #253,000 an acre when re-zoned for building use, and if 260,000 acres are used up in this period, the re-zoning profit to landowners will be #65bn.

When greenfield land is required for road building the development rights belong to the government. Why shouldn’t it be the same when such land is required for housing and commercial development? Both are community uses. Surely, after half a century in which planning law has defined and valued country land so very differently from town land, all countryside development rights, other than those connected with agriculture, should be vested in the government.

Affected landowners would have to be compensated, but would be infinitesimal compared to the #65bn profit they will receive when their land is re-zoned from greenfield land to building land over the next 16 years.

As long as it is more profitable to build on greenfield rather than brownfield land, more countryside will disappear than needs to, and brownfield land will not be used to its maximum potential.

Why do we still have a law that, today, produces a financial result that reminds one of the medieval system of feudalism?

John Freeman, London

It ain’t easy to get through

I have to tell you that I am really p****d off.

I telephoned a client’s tax district to enquire about the balance on his statement of account. Surprise! Surprise! The computer system is down.

Again. That makes at least three times in the last fortnight. I tried another office. Same result. Apparently the system was down nationwide.

It was also down on 30 January, the last working day before the deadline.

The consequence? The tax office was unable to determine whether a client had been sent a tax return with the bulk run in April 1997. So it sent out a duplicate manual return with 7 April 1997 on it, for filing the next day. Surely, in such circumstances the tax office should have dated the return as 30 January 1998?

This really is not good enough, and I for one am getting extremely frustrated.

Why is it that we practitioners and our clients always have to suffer for the Inland Revenue’s blindness to reality?

The Revenue cannot cope with this new system, yet we are expected to.

Even its computer doesn’t work properly. ‘God help us all. Each and every one of us.’

SD Paskin, Paskin & Co, Worthing, West Sussex

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