Letters – 17 June

All the same under the skin

Your report ‘CIMA urges talk not fight’ (25 March) was timely. Approximately 80% of the syllabuses of all the accountancy bodies are the same. They are mainly training institutions and now have continuing professional development plus standard-setting roles in the field of accountancy.

I believe all the heads of the six (indeed seven, to include the Institute of Internal Auditors) institutions should meet once a month and thrash out each area where they can ‘merge’ to reduce costs.

They could use an investment or merchant bank to advise them on what their synergies are. It would be a colossal step forward.

Co-operation and competition are not mutually exclusive, and the same is true of regulated and unregulated activity. Whether an entity is a sole trader, a partnership, a quoted company or a close company, the accounting standards, tax compliance and so on are all identical in substance. For the remaining 20% of the syllabus each body could have its own unique mark of excellence.

The chartered institutes are leaders in finance and auditing, ACCA in commerce and accountancy, CIMA in industry and costing, CIPFA in public sector (30% of GDP) and economics, and the IIA in systems, procedures and internal control.

The UK is still a world-class leader when it comes to accountancy. Let us not give up that leadership.

Nagindas Khajuria, FCCA, London N12

Revenue idea is real monster Some myths still survive. Many people believe in the Loch Ness monster, and some still think that the attack on personal services companies will only affect those who incorporate to avoid tax.

Terry Dullaghan (Letters, 27 May) states that ‘if the company is a genuine trading company with several customers, which advertises or actively promotes its services then it should have nothing to fear’. But it is clear from the guidance issued by the Inland Revenue that such companies are within the scope of the proposals.

This is the real issue: individuals who would be self-employed if they worked for clients as sole traders will be classed as employees of these clients if they operate through a company.

In short, ‘genuine trading companies’ have everything to fear from the proposals.

Anne Redston, chartered tax adviser, Ernst & Young

Stop attacking the small guy At last a realistic assessment of the present government’s attack on enterprise. Robert Maas (3 June) has set out a clear indictment of the way in which this government has tightened the draconian, stifling screw of bureaucracy and restriction on small business.

The present taxation system is becoming more and more weighed against the smaller entrepreneur. Just consider the following few examples:

– the continuing illogical push to get everyone taxed under the PAYE system;

– the oppressive and stupid rules for travelling and subsistence expenses under Schedule E;

– the treatment of self-employed actors for National Insurance contributions; and

– the attack on small builders.

Perhaps Accountancy Age would like to lead a campaign for a simpler, more logical treatment of the smaller entrepreneur and the self-employed. I would be happy to help.

Clive Parritt, chairman, Baker Tilly

How radical is Masters’ plan? Your headline says it all – ‘The Magnificent Half Dozen’ (3 June). What other profession has six major ruling bodies (plus numerous minor ones) duplicating resources, failing to agree on matters of common interest and generally confusing the public they purport to serve?

The world is full of accountants in businesses claiming to be ‘customer-driven’, but the lack of structure in their own profession evidences the belief it is the accountants themselves who are the customers of their institutes. This is not so – it is the general public. Ultimately they pay the bills, but most have no idea of the role or authority of the plethora of institutes.

The various moves over many decades to unify the various institutes have usually been thwarted by the English ICA. In taking over as president, Dame Sheila Masters has a wonderful opportunity to restart and drive through this most important objective of the 21st century.

Sadly, however, her interview comments ignore the really big strategy issues of the profession and concentrate on tinkering with the English ICA’s finances and IT. This smacks of settling old scores rather than of her being a real reformer.

Of course such things need to be done, but they can and should be done by delegation. However, if the captain spends all her time in the engine room, who will guide the ship of state away from the rocks?

History may judge Dame Sheila as a super bean counter in her own backyard, but on this agenda she will not be described with any of the adjectives she espouses – radical, reforming, or statesmanlike. There is still time to adjust the aims of her year in office, but will she?

Duncan Heenan, FCA, Niton, Isle of Wight

The ups and downs of Boot Camp and beyond I was interested to read the two letters giving readers’ contrasting views on Boot Camp (20 May).

My firm has been going through the process during the last year. It began with a presentation in London, followed in the next few months by our partners going through the process of transforming our firm and brainwashing the staff (sorry – team) to the extent that we might have thought we were joining a religious sect.

At our first staff conference, we were expected to wear baseball hats and, during the afternoon session, everybody from partner to junior had to shout ideas to another member of our team who was writing them all down on a board.

We now have sweets in the interview rooms (that goes down a bundle with the dentists!) and our telephonist is ‘Tracy, how can she help you?’ We spent hours at partners’ meetings drafting a mission statement, pondering laboriously on every word until the final product was put to print. It now hangs proudly in reception, bearing the signatures of every single person in our organisation.

From the beginning of the process the administration and bureaucracy has multiplied rapidly. We have listed our clients between A and D. The D clients we don’t want, the C clients we work on to try and improve, the B ones we pester with correspondence and invitations to Boot Camp sessions – each invitation written in special jargon commencing with ‘Good Morning’.

Every operation in the office now seems to require filling in a form and, on our weekly time sheets, we mark a scale between a smiling face and a scowling one to indicate how happy we were during the previous week.

The results are posted on the office notice board, which is now brimming with statistics about our firm’s production targets, gained and lost clients and other ‘key performance indicators’.

A big ‘up-side’ is the motivation of our team members and there are some excellent ideas on business advice and marketing. Boot Camp is a bit like a curate’s egg really. Some parts are very good indeed, but others leave me completely cold.

Name and address supplied

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