UK Treasury to resolve IT share dispute

The UK government says it is close to defusing the row between hi-tech companies over national insurance charges on unapproved share option schemes.

Treasury Minister Stephen Timms last week told the House of Commons that he is in discussions with concerned companies to find a solution to the problem, which has left a number of hi-tech companies with large tax bills.

Companies involved in discussions include online auction website QXL and internet technology manufacturer Cisco Systems, which recently threatened to scrap plans to employ an extra 4000 staff in the UK because of the dispute.

QXL finance director Robert Dighero recently confirmed that he would be meeting with Revenue and Treasury officials to discuss the issue.

It is understood that the proposed solution may include moving the tax burden away from the companies and on to the individual share owners when they exercise the options, as long as the share owners agree.

A rapid solution to the disagreement would counter any embarrassment for the government as it attempts to make the UK the leading environment in which to trade electronically.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said he would consider legislation changes in the recent Budget.

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