News in Brief – 14 January

Charity paper expected

Speculation was mounting this week in the charity sector that the government is set to announce details of the long-awaited charity taxation review. Economic secretary to the Treasury, Patricia Hewitt, was due to speak yesterday at the agm of the Charity Tax Reform Group in London. Hewitt’s speech was expected to cover the review, which was originally due to be outlined last Spring, and was launched after advanced corporation tax relief was abolished for charities in July 1997.

Neill reviews public conduct The Neill Committee on standards in public life is to review MPs, ministers, civil servants and quangos to see the extent to which recommendations on their conduct have been implemented. The review will cover appointments to executive quangos, gifts and hospitality, and business appointment rules.

PwC partner killed in Yemen Andrew Thirsk, an Australian corporate finance partner with PwC in Sydney, was among the four Western hostages killed by Yemeni extremists last month. The 16 Western tourists were taken hostage as their convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles was travelling from Habban to Aden. Thirsk, 35, was one of the four hostages killed during a rescue attempt launched by the Yemeni government.

Ventures, R&D to get leg-up Dawn Primarolo, the new Paymaster General, signalled the government’s interest in introducing tax breaks to encourage venture capital and investment in research and development last week. The Inland Revenue will issue a Technical Note redefining R&D for tax purposes later this month, she announced. Primarolo also said the government was considering granting tax relief to large companies which took direct investments in smaller trading companies.

Deloittes to be Steps’ advisor The Inland Revenue has announced the appointment of Deloitte & Touche as the lead consultant on its project to transfer its property estate to the private sector, known as Steps. The programme is a joint initiative between the Revenue and Customs & Excise. Five firms were shortlisted to help the departments attract and assess bids. Deloittes previously advised the Department of Social Security on its equivalent Prime project.

Consultancy goes global Globalisation and IT have eclipsed business process re-engineering as the most likely source of consultancy work, according to a survey of 1,000 consultants carried out by Druid. The respondents predicted financial services would be the most active sector in the next five years.

NAO qualifies NI accounts The National Insurance Fund’s accounts have been qualified by the National Audit Office for the 12th year running. NAO head Sir John Bourn also reported on errors in jobseekers’ allowance, compliance with NI contribution legislation, and the management of contributions debt. The impact of delays in implementing the new National Insurance Recording System was also highlighted. Andersen Consulting is responsible for the #100m project which has yet to become fully operational.

Plans to stop urban sprawl Proposals to remove mortgage interest tax relief from people who own homes on greenfield sites are being considered by a government task force. The hundreds of millions of pounds that would be saved would be ploughed back into reviving Britain’s towns and cities.

Aggregate tax rethink call A former Tory minister has called on the government to look again at its proposals to tax the extraction of aggregates. Robert Jackson said a ten-point action plan produced by the industry in response to the scheme might prove more effective than the proposed ‘green’ tax in delivering environmental benefits.

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