News in Brief – 10 December

MPs call to vet taxman

Tax collectors could face financial vetting as a result of pressure from MPs, who subjected Inland Revenue chiefs to rigorous questioning on Monday over the Michael Allcock corruption scandal. The renegade tax inspector was given a five-year jail term last year for accepting bribes. Revenue chairman Nick Montagu came under fire from parliament’s Public Accounts Committee over the way the case was handled and the lenient treatment of other officials involved in the affair. The committee demanded a report on the feasibility of introducing vetting procedures for Revenue officers.

Curtis sells office Leonard Curtis, the independent insolvency practice, has sold its Brighton office to Begbies Traynor. The sale follows the launch of Leonard Curtis’ joint venture with HW Fisher & Co, called Fisher Curtis, in October. The new firm, which will specialise in business recovery and reconstruction, plans to set up offices in Northampton and the north of England early in the new year.

PwC & KPMG lose out PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG are losing business to smaller rivals in the Scottish charity sector, according to new research. A survey by Caritas Data, ‘Top 1,000 Charities in Scotland’, found Scott-Moncrieff Downie Wilson headed the auditors’ table with fee income of #134.4m followed by KPMG (#83.7m) and Ernst & Young (#78.5m).

CIPFA caution on SSA plan CIPFA gave a cautious welcome to the government’s three-year spending settlement for local authorities. It said this year’s 5.4% increase would encourage long-term financial planning but called for a ‘fundamental review’ of the Standard Spending Assessment methodology.

New tolls and tax for cars All funds raised from new road tolls and taxes on workplace parking will be spent on improving train and bus services, John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, announced earlier this week. A government consultation paper outlines a raft of possible measures, and local authorities will be asked to come up with spending plans for the new charges.

English ICA profit guide The English ICA’s tax faculty has released a guide for professional partnerships over the withdrawal-of-cash basis for calculating taxable profits. The introduction of ‘true and fair’ accounting standards from the tax year 2000/2001 will force firms to value work in progress. The Inland Revenue-approved guide will also help tax advisers calculate any catch-up charge, covering debtors, creditors and work in progress, as the new rules are phased in.

EMU cost shoots up The total business cost of EMU for Europe’s largest companies has rocketed to $85bn – up 70% from last year, according to KPMG’s annual euro survey.

It predicts a growing ‘euro snowball’, with companies forced into major changes to deal with the euro. KPMG estimates the average cost per large company of EMU transition to be $51m.

TIC reviews new tax ideas The Commons Trade and Industry Committee has mounted an urgent investigation into proposals outlined in the Queen’s Speech. It will focus on proposals for new taxes and steps that should be taken to prevent the Internet being used to avoid or evade VAT, corporation tax or other taxes. The committee wants to begin hearing evidence in January and complete its inquiry in February.

Utilities ready for year 2000 The government is working with key players to boost public confidence that vital utilities will not be disrupted by millennium compliance problems, industry minister Barbara Roche told the Commons. She claimed it already has emergency contingency plans and is developing ‘additional measures’.

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