Letters – 13 August

Calling all ‘Virgin accountants’

Many of your readers will have served in the army during the 1950s and 1960s, as National Servicemen – the ‘Virgin Soldiers’.

Many of us, because we were accountants, completed our service in the Pay Corps in the UK and many parts of the world.

An RAPC ‘Old Boys” association has been formed and we are trying to trace ex-Pay Corps members to swell the ranks. There is no membership fee.

Anyone interested in such an association is asked to contact John Hudson, Low Well House, Low Well Park, Wheldrake, York YO4 6AF.

Edward Russell (253 Intake), South Shields

ACCA merger proposal: the responses keep rolling in …

ACCA’s direct approach to CIMA and CIPFA members appears as arrogant as the manner by which internal discussion within ACCA itself has been suppressed by council.

It is ludicrous to suggest, as ACCA does, that this is a ‘bottom-up’ approach to merging the bodies involved. But then the ACCA council always had a ‘strange’ idea of the meaning of ‘consultation’, particularly when it comes to individual members.

It is simply a power grab – from the top of ACCA, using its members’ resources and money yet again without any kind of mandate from its own members, to directly approach the members of other bodies.

As a member of ACCA for many years, I would suggest to CIMA and CIPFA members that they would do well to remember the old saying about ‘strangers bearing gifts’.

This ACCA approach deserves to fail – not because of the ends it wishes to achieve – but because of the means used and what those means say about its own lack of interest in its own membership.

Ken Robins, FCCA, Bournemouth

Your survey of finance directors’ views on the ACCA proposed merger, I believe, may give a false idea of CIMA members’ voting intentions.

I, like many other CIMA members, work outside finance departments. The very nature of our examinations and work experience encourages members to work in areas such as business management, forward planning, consultancy and other fields outside finance departments.

My concerns are that the skills for general business management that CIMA encourages will be lost in any merger and also, as witnessed by many letters published over the recent months, many ACCA members are unhappy about the way their institute is run.

John Freeman, FCMA, Rickmansworth, Herts

Our ACCA hierarchy has indicated that some 75% of those responding are in favour of the proposed development.

Since this apparently was based on a 10% response, essentially it means that some 7.5% of people have voted in favour, and some 92.5% have, at the time of publication of the figures, certainly not given their consent.

Such distortion of statistics reminds me of the advert that used to appear for what is the now termed ‘the old Halifax Building Society’, which used to boast how much its assets had increased, whether it be to #20bn or #30bn, without at the same time pointing out that its liabilities had increased to a similar sort of figure.

The merger may or may not take place; certainly the way it has been handled by ACCA, it’s at the very least, arrogant, and possibly simply incompetent.

Peter Broadley, FCCA, Halifax, West Yorkshire

As an EU citizen and ACCA member, I support the planned merger and would

like to comment on the articles in your magazine which discuss the issue very much from the point of the UK accountancy profession.

The comments against generally appear to be backward-looking and introspective and made out of a desire to preserve the status quo. If the ‘no’ vote wins, it may be pyrrhic victory and the fate of the traditional accountant may ultimately prove to be similar to that of the traditional bank manager.

The arguments in favour are at least forward-looking and more customer-focused, but they need to be discussed in a wider context. One of the compelling reasons for the merger is the creation of a professional body which will have true international presence and influence. Our customers are becoming increasingly international and technology will continue to speed up these developments.

There is a great need for a broad-based quality organisation that offers an alternative to a worldwide profession which will be increasingly dominated by the Big Five – a body which encompasses the best aspects of academic, commercial, international, professional and public practice. A UK-based body would have an advantage as it already has firm international roots as well as the necessary qualities.

The real debate should be about what sort of merged body will be formed and what the next steps after this will be, such as planning for the global profession of the 21st century.

Pekka Hale, ACCA, Bradfield, Berks

The partial unification of the profession as proposed by the ACCA would raise the stakes of its membership. As a member for the past 40 years, I am certainly in favour of, and would vote for this merger.

Equally, I have no doubt that this takeover would be extremely damaging to the ICMA membership. But as a cost accountant for more than 50 years, I am opposed to the proposition and would vote against it. Fortunately this conflict of interest causes me no difficulty.

As a non-feepaying retired member of both bodies, I have no moral right to vote on a matter that could affect the standing of so many active members.

I wonder what students think? Some at least may qualify one day. Should they have a vote?

Dr KW Kilvington, Grafton, York

Tax burden gets heavier I much enjoyed reading John Whiting’s ‘grilling’ from a taxpayer (2 July). When asked whether Labour had increased the tax burden in its first year of office, he replied that this was the case.

The March 1998 Budget Red Book forecasts that tax as a proportion of UK GDP will increase from 36% in 1996/1997 to 38.4% in 2001/2002, measured on a like for like basis.

According to a Treasury-written answer dated 22 December 1997, this increase in the tax/GDP ratio is worth #23bn per annum in 2001/2002, equivalent (by then) to a hike in the basic rate of income tax of around 10p. Putting up taxes is not necessarily a bad thing – public services have to be adequately funded. But as part of its commitment to open government, the Treasury should perhaps do more to publicise the thinking behind the various increases it will be implementing.

MC Fitzpatrick, head of economics, Chantrey Vellacott

VAT claims made easy I refer to ‘In Brief’ (16 July). There would be a much simpler and fairer way for Customs & Excise to achieve its objectives. The first #50,000 of turnover on any registerable business is exempt.

The input VAT claim is restricted to a percentage of the turnover which has been subjected to VAT. A #100,000 turnover would mean VAT payable on #50,000 and input VAT restricted to 50% of the total. Yes, some administration problems – but nothing like those that would result from the proposals from Customs.

Harold James, Weston-Super-Mare

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