Letters – 21 January

Pension record

A recent article in your newspaper (19 November) referred to the delays and inaccuracies in information from insurance companies when attempting to complete accounts for pension funds.

I have had prolonged correspondence with the trustees of the pension fund of my previous employers and with OPAS.

The accounts of the pension scheme for the year ended 31/12/94 were signed on 27/6/96. The accounts for the year ended 31/12/95 were due to be signed at the end of November 1998.

Is this a record?

CM Gregory FCA BSc, Farnborough, Hants

ELS – back to haunt you I wonder how many practitioners have been carefully checking their ELS reports. If they have, they may have been puzzled, like me, of the number of rejections being notified.

A phone call to our local tax office gave the answer. If the detailed profit & loss boxes on your SATR 3.20 to 3.50 do not contain at least three expense items, the ELS return is rejected. If, though, you had sent it by post, it would have been accepted.

You may question how this is possible. The unofficial answer is very simple.

When inputting the postal return onto the computer, the Revenue ‘amends’ the return, that is, it changes the figures to allow the computer to accept it.

The bad news for ELS subscribers/filers, though, is that, once rejected, the system does not acknowledge it was ever filed, so a late-filing penalty would ensue.

Therefore, if you have a self-employed client whose earnings are more than #15,000 but with less than three expense items – say, cab drivers – the Revenue’s computer cannot process it. You would be forced to falsify an expenses claim to have the return accepted.

As usual, I would be interested to hear of similar experiences from fellow (and associated) sufferers.

B Seheult FCCA, London

Institutes’ wool pulling Recent initiatives by ACCA and the Institute of Internal Auditors call into question the image of accountants generally. ACCA attempted to increase its own status and influence by unilaterally suggesting to other institutes’ members rationalisation of the profession.

The IAA has written directly to Leaders of Councils in an attempt to persuade them that their own role, status (and I assume salaries) should be increased, and that the conduct of public-sector business is at risk if internal audit is left under the supervision of chief finance officers.

A characteristic of both campaigns is innuendo somewhat oblique to reality about the extent of support for their ideas. I doubt that there is much support, if any, for the IIA’s proposals or that the consultees have given the issues more than casual consideration.

Such conduct does not reflect well on the standards of conduct expected of professional bodies, public or private, and hopefully most observers will recall that, though having the right to be heard, not everyone has the right to be taken seriously.

Peter Swaby, County Treasurer, Derbyshire County Council

Exams failing you – again The CIPFA examination fiasco produces deja vu (7 January).

Not exactly light years ago, an examinations supremo was appointed above the existing examinations chief to stem the then tide of errors in the examinations process.

One can have little confidence when history is repeated for errors which are eminently avoidable, given the due diligence that one has a right to expect.

As to those disadvantaged, the only fair procedure is to assess, via individual questionnaire, the impact of the mistake, and then double-check with the scripts. Each candidate needs to be restored to their original position had the examination been in camera-ready form.

A mass approach, as recommended by Kenneth Gill, will not rectify the negligence, especially since he proposes that those who perpetrated the mistake are to be judge and jury.

For Pamela Trickey, it is plain that the impact was wider than the one question with the error. The precision and reliability of the examination process has once again been impugned, which is of concern to all CCAB members.

Professor Gerald Vinten CIPFA, deputy dean, Southampton Business School

Actions speak louder than words but tax speaks loudest Richard Baron (‘Singing in perfect euro disharmony’, 10 December) refers to a recent government statement to the effect that the way to create jobs is to cut taxes, not raise them.

Richard is referring to a statement by chancellor Brown to that effect on 23 November, repeated by prime minister Blair at Prime Ministers’ Questions on 9 December.

Mr Brown may or may not be correct in his statement. If, however, he refers to his ‘Pre-Budget Report’, published in November 1998, he will see that UK tax levels are on the increase, not on the decrease.

Specifically, in 1996/1997 (the last year of Conservative government), tax absorbed 35.4% of GDP. By 2001/2002, the likely last year of Labour’s first five-year term, this figure will have increased to 37.0%.

It should also be noted, in passing, that this figure is artificially flattered by being stated net of the working family’s tax credit, equivalent to 0.5% of GDP. The WFTC is set shortly to replace the social security payment, family credit, which is currently scored as social security expenditure.

On a like-for-like basis, the tax/GDP ratio under Mr Brown’s stewardship will have gone up by 2.1% of GDP (equivalent to raising the basic rate of income tax by around 9p in the #) – an odd way, according to chancellor Brown, of creating jobs.

Maurice Fitzpatrick, London

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