Institute is not playing dirty

Jeff Wooller has called on English ICA members (16 April, ‘Letters’, page 13) to ‘write, ring, fax or e-mail’ me – and I would be delighted if they would!

However, I would prefer them to do so in response to the Education & Training papers currently with members for consultation, rather than in response to Wooller’s sadly ill-informed letter. In particular, Wooller is wrong to suggest the E&T Directorate is calling a special meeting. Decisions – if any – which are matters for the membership will be taken at a scheduled special meeting at the appropriate time.

The E&T Directorate is consulting members on the introduction of a first-stage qualification and separately on future ACA syllabus changes. We are at an early stage, and further consultation with members will take place before any final decisions are taken.

Further copies of the consultation documents can be obtained from the director of Education and Training, English ICA, Gloucester House, 399 Silbury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2HL

Peter L Wyman, chairman, E&T Directorate, English ICA

Democracy not demagogy. Democracy in the English ICA should start with council elections.

Like most Londoners, I rarely vote, not because I am not interested but because I do not know any of the candidates and to choose between them would be meaningless.

What we need are, say, three or four pre-election meetings, at which the candidates could say something of their interests and concerns and be questioned about ours. Agitate for that and you will be doing a real service.

The presidency is another matter. As with the council elections, the voting should be done by persons who know something – preferably a great deal – about the candidates, not least their abilities as chairmen.

That knowledge cannot be available to the average FCA. In such a context ‘democracy’ inevitably means demagogy. The winner will be someone whose name has been in front of the voters’ eyes during the run-up to the election.

What gets it there is the decision of journalists, whether informed or misinformed, concerned with what is good for the profession or what is good for circulation, and of the Mandelsons of this world, who present the journalists with the relevant ‘information’. Leave this one well alone – even if it would be good for circulation.

J Denza, chartered accountant, London NW3

Unsigned SAs boomerang

For various reasons we were unable to obtain the signature on about 50 of our clients’ self-assessment income tax returns by midnight on 31 January 1998, despite the fact that their returns were completed, and we are now facing claims from some of our clients for reimbursement of the late filing penalty.

Some time after 31 January the Revenue changed the rules, whereby any unsigned returns in their possession by the due date would be returned and could be resubmitted within a specific period of time, duly signed – which they previously had stated would not be allowed.

If we had known of this concession, then obviously these returns would have been submitted unsigned.

We have now been in contact with various districts which all state they do not have the authority to eliminate the penalty but that each case must be referred to the General Commissioners.

Do I feel aggrieved? Too bloody true I do.

SR Sowerbutts, Camberley, Surrey

Inaccuracies in abundance

To add to Mr Jacob’s statistics for partnership self-assessment returns (9 April, ‘Letters’, page 13), we have 24 partnerships and have not seen any of them dealt with correctly.

This does not necessarily mean we have seen 24 incorrect calculations and assessments. In many cases, there have been three or four incorrect attempts.

We shall await further statistics with interest, not least to prove to our clients that it is not our fault!

Catherine Harris, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

First do your homework

I was very interested in your feature ‘Taking Cover’, (2 April, page 24).

You are right, there are plenty of players who are involved in the professional indemnity market for accountants. Rates are very soft and there are some great bargains to be had.

You also correctly pointed out that English ICA-compliant cover cannot be diluted and as such there is little danger that a practice in moving insurers inadvertently acquires inferior cover.

So premiums are soft and cover is standard. But what about the level of service from brokers and insurers? I strongly advise anyone involved in the purchasing process to check the service, experience and reputation of either the intermediary they choose or the insurer.

There are a great number of players in the current market, but there is also a great degree of variance in the standard of service offered by them.

While the purchase of professional indemnity insurance is compulsory, it also allows the professional to ‘sleep easy at night’. I strongly suggest your readers use a broker that provides the same comfort.

Andrew M Macpherson, London E1

Inefficient use of the model

With all due respect to Chantrey Vellacott’s ‘NIC and income tax integration model’ used by Mr Fitzpatrick (16 April, ‘Letters’, page 13), I beg to suggest either he has asked it the wrong question or it has misunderstood his request.

It is difficult to believe that elimination of the employee NIC levy charged at a maximum rate of 10% on a slice of earned income tax is applicable to all income, both earned and unearned.

Perhaps a reader with a calculator could enlighten me.

BH Worboys, Broomfield, Essex

Dig down to the hidden agenda

Your reader, who wrote in about interviews (26 March, ‘Letters’, page 17), sensibly referred to probing the interviewer about previous incumbents of the job.

Interviews are all too often one-sided in favour of the interviewer.

They will outline an attractive position and ask many searching questions of the candidate, but all too often fail to declare the real difficulties, challenges and problems of the job.

One way to help identify the real needs of the job is to reciprocate with open-ended questions such as: ‘What do you see as the main challenges of this position?’, ‘What are the main problems you think the appointee will have?’ and ‘What do you expect the appointee to achieve and over what timescale?’

Such questions encourage the interviewer to reveal the ‘hidden agenda’, as they can often be guilty of withholding information rather than simply telling outright lies.

John Seear, Chartac Career Services, English ICA

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