Letters – 21 May

More a case of resignation

Your article ‘CPE local shambles’ (7 May) was misleading.

For a decade, the same SWLCA courses committee has provided quality courses run at a profit. They have run balanced programmes ranging, for instance, from ‘Tax Update’ to ‘Improving Practice Profitability’.

Attendance has fallen by 10%, compared with three years ago, because more local practices have in-house training plus competition from commercial organisations provides cheap courses.

The main committee failed to recognise these reasons and pressed for a larger profit to help fund its loss-making activities, such as the annual dinner which has lost over #3,000 in the last two years.

The courses committee did not think it right that the members paying for CPE should subsidise the junketing of others. On this point of principle, the courses committee felt obliged to tender its resignation, which was all too readily accepted.

Howard Marks, ex-Courses Committee member for 16 years, New Malden, Surrey

Ignorance is far from bliss

Like motherhood and apple pie, your leader on this subject (16 April) is difficult to argue against, yet in my experience life is not so simple.

I belong to a number of organisations where there are direct elections, and in two of them I am trying to persuade them to save their money and revert to something more meaningful.

When the election forms come through I have to discuss the merits of the candidates (of whom I often have not heard) with a member of council and then vote accordingly.

It would be much better if the council would hold the election without the huge cost of tapping the ignorance of voters like me.

To be consistent I would take a similar attitude with the English ICA.

As I am a council member, however, it would be understandable if people felt that I was either defending the status quo per se or the ‘cosy club’ as Dr Wooller puts it.

It might be a club but it can be far from ‘cosy’; I remember during my early days being rescued from my political naivety by Ian McNeil (then president) when a number of members did not like what was being proposed and were saying so very strongly.

The ‘rescue’ was to go back to the drawing board. So if members want direct elections that is fine by me, but there will be a cost and the present system might be more meaningful with voters having the benefit of close scrutiny of the candidates over a period of time.

If the current system only produces clones or compliant establishment figures then I would be worried. But that is far from the case.

Having been involved in calling for special meetings, I am a great believer in radical or ‘ginger’ groups. They keep elected members on their toes and often cause healthy re-examination of what can be too often taken for granted.

Therefore, I am somewhat disappointed not to have received an invitation to join Dr Wooller’s group or indeed any other radical group. If I have been excluded because I am a council member then I can understand that, as long as all other members have received an invitation.

Presumably, in light of the proposal to the English ICA’s agm, the ginger group inner circle is directly elected by its members, as is its leader.

David M Hunt, partner, director of communication, Pannell Kerr Forster, Nottingham

Ageism will never go away

Your writer on the matter of ageism in employment (‘Letters’, 7 May) reaffirms what most of us know: many older people have all the experience and ability required but ‘ageism’ so often excludes them from consideration. Why?

The three most usual reasons put forward are: they will lack the enthusiasm, energy and ambition of the younger person; it is a ‘young team’ and they won’t fit in; if they have not succeeded earlier in their career to a higher position then they do not have the abilities required.

In some cases these assumptions can be true. However, in many cases it is just ‘human nature’ that a line manager will feel more confident controlling a younger, and therefore less experienced, person or that an older person will not suit the team/company culture.

It is ironic that the experience of the writer, as with so many chartered accountants who have turned to independent consultancy or contract work for a career, is that for such assignments being older is a plus point.

I do see the attitude of employers to older people for permanent positions improving slowly due, in part, to the proof provided by such contract workers. I fear, though, that ‘ageism’, even if legislation is brought in, will always be a contentious issue.

John N Seear, Chartac Career Services

Burning the incense

I was bemused to read the leader (14 May) on accountancy body agm rituals.

A hardy annual of a ritual at the Institute of Internal Auditors agm for several years now has been to start off as inquorate, often because so many council members had disappeared following the preceding morning meeting.

One then either finds an office with the chief internal auditor phoning London-based staff to taxi themselves over or we follow the book of very common prayer. This entails waiting for 30 minutes, chanting some magic words, waiting another 15 minutes, and then apparently qualifying to start even if there is only one person left in the room.

This amazing procedure was discovered by a former Hon Company Secretary.

Previously, one reconvened a week later and, since only those present would have been notified, the chances of progressing beyond inquorate were slim. That did not matter since yet again an attendance of one sufficed.

Don’t divulge this information to my friends Prem Sikka or Austin Mitchell!

We sure live in a rational and well regulated universe.

Professor Gerald Vinten, Southampton Business School, past president, Institute of Internal Auditors

Bolt-on bonanza yet to catch on

Your feature on VAT software (30 April) made no mention of the concept of buying external software as a bolt-on. This is common in the US and is a major reason for US accounting systems having pretty rudimentary tax capabilities.

Sales and use taxes are so complex, and there are so many different jurisdictions that most vendors write something very basic, relying on third-party packages to provide the real functionality.

European VAT is not yet as complex, but the problems of Intrastat and triangulation have turned it from a simple domestic tax into a complex international one.

Some major ERP implementations already involve costly work to configure what are basically inadequate VAT systems. The euro-inspired expansion of intra-community trade will only make this worse.

Software is increasingly component-based, and tax modules should be no different. It is crazy for the same functionality to be repeatedly created from scratch. US vendors worked this out years ago – Europeans will no doubt follow eventually.

Andrew Tringham, director of European marketing, Taxware

All letters should be sent to: The Editor, Accountancy Age, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG

Tel: 0171 316 9236; Fax: 0171 316 9250


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