News in Brief – 19 February

Tax reforms to go ahead

The Foreign Office is to press ahead with reforms of financial regulation in UK dependent territories, despite opposition from the islands’ leaders. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the territories must adopt independent regulatory authorities, free from political influence, that recognise international standards.

Andersen case in NY

Andersen Consulting has taken its divorce claim against Arthur Andersen to a US federal court in New York to strike out a decision of the Andersen Worldwide board. It contested the board, dominated by Arthurs’ partners, tried to give judgement in the dispute when it ruled that Consulting was in breach of partnership agreements.

Arthur Andersen eyes up Wilde

Arthur Andersen is set to swallow up one of the largest law firms in the UK, in a move which will put it ahead of the rest of the Big Six accountancy firms in the legal market. If the merger goes ahead, Wilde Sapte would be swallowed up by Andersens, but in return Andersens could boost the law firm’s global ambitions by placing Wilde’s brand on its current worldwide network of legal firms.

OECD urges fraud action

The OECD’s Financial Action Task Force castigated accountants and lawyers last week for their failure to report suspicions of money laundering transactions.

After a year-long review of the professions, the FATF said it wanted better training for accountants to spot fraud.

Computer crime rising

Companies are failing to take basic precautions to prevent IT fraud, even though over 45% are victims of computer crime, the Audit Commission has warned. A Commission survey found over half of frauds uncovered were brought to light by accident, rather than by fraud control systems.

School wins VAT case

A language school in Wales has made Customs and Excise change the way it rates residential buildings for VAT. Residential accommodation for students qualifies for zero-rating, but The Urdd Gobaith Cymru school convinced a tribunal students did not have to live there for a fixed period of time for a building to qualify.

UN backs ACCA course

A draft global accountancy curriculum presented to the United Nations last week, is based largely on ACCA’s syllabus, the certifieds’ association said.

Loophole closed

Customs and Excise has closed a tax loophole to save insolvency practitioners taking over the running of insolvent firms from unfair tax bills. Traders can claim input tax under the bad debt relief scheme, but are liable to pay it back if they become insolvent.

PKF warns of clampdown

The government is poised to launch a clampdown on VAT dodgers, accountants Pannell Kerr Forster has claimed. John Davison, a PKF VAT manager, said: ‘Customs are even threatening to investigate businesses that claim to turn over less than the #45,000 VAT threshold.’

Scottish councils exempt

All Scotland’s councils have won exemption from the need to put accountancy services out to compulsory competitive tendering because they have met the Scottish Office’s ‘best value’ criteria, Secretary of State for Scotland Donald Dewar said this week.

Woman FD wins prize

Jayne Scott, director of finance and performance management for Fife Health Board became the first woman to win a prize in the Bank of Scotland FD of the Year awards after she scooped the award for the public sector category.

Bunn made news editor

Jon Bunn has been appointed news editor of Accountancy Age. Bunn, on the Age’s staff for almost two years, was formerly deputy news editor.

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