Letters 11 Feb

Benefits of harmonising

Nigel Eastaway makes a very important point (‘Taxation’, 21 January, page 13) when he observes that ‘social security contributions are, in reality, a form of taxation’. By the same token, social security payments are a form of negative taxation.

Clearly, if we are to have tax harmonisation we must also have benefits harmonisation. In line with most of the rest of Europe, I look forward to a much higher basic state pension, an earlier retirement age, and higher unemployment benefits if I should temporarily (or even permanently) find myself out of work.

Peter Judge ACMA, Brighouse

Director on the ballpoint

The article by Sir Peter Kemp (7 January, page 12) on getting re-acquainted with cash, reminded me of the story of the chairman of a multibillion-pound international conglomerate sending his secretary out to buy him another Biro pen. When he saw that she had paid #1 for the pen, he berated her for paying so much as he knew where she could have bought it for half that price.

She responded by saying she could not understand why, when he dealt in millions of pounds every day, he could get angry over 50p! He replied: ‘To be honest, millions of pounds I just can’t comprehend – but #1 for a Biro, that I understand!

A Kutner, FCA, London EC2

Whose birth is it anyway?

What a lot of debate about when the millennium should start. Of course this centres around whether we started from year 0 or 1. However, I am sure that, when I was born, I had to wait a year before being called one.

We also seem to be missing the latest argument … that Herod (and therefore Christ) was, in fact, alive around 4BC, so that we should have celebrated the millennium in 1996 (or was it 1997?)

IR Parrett, ACCA, Faversham

Outsiders on inside track

The intolerance exhibited by Dominic Mathon (‘Letters’, 7 January, page 13) and EA Russell (‘Letters’, 28 January, page 17) makes me very angry. Their comments simply confirm why the profession is in disrepute.

As outsiders, Jim Cousins and Austin Mitchell are in a better position to judge accountancy matters. The last thing that we need are more cronies telling us that all is well with the profession. Without outside criticisms, the institute would not be revamping regulation, ACCA would not be reforming its constitution and the Accounting Standards Board and the Auditing Practices Board would not be producing better standards.

Jim Cousins and Austin Mitchell have performed greater service to the profession than the people taking cheap pot-shots at them. I am surprised that Cousins and Mitchell have not been made honorary chartered accountants.

Paul Stickney, Halifax, Yorkshire

A joke gone too far?

In your issue dated 4 February on the ‘Taking Stock’ page, I am writing to let you know that I find it extremely offensive for you to suggest that anyone who is a Freemason is a deeply sinister character.

Of course I understand that this section of your worthy journal is designed to be a piece of fun, but I do believe that your choice of words could have been chosen with a little more thought and sensitivity to the readership – many of whom are also likely to be Freemasons.

Or did you do this intentionally to provoke a reaction?

Steve Williams, FCA,

Stuck in the middle

The Joint Disciplinary Scheme comment on Coopers having lost the plot in its role as auditor of Maxwell-controlled companies comes to mind when Peter Hazell, PricewaterhouseCoopers managing partner, says ‘the acid test is the client’s response’. We have an old saying in Scotland: ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’. Presumably Robert Maxwell also supported the partners in question. What about investors and pension-fund beneficiaries?

Until a fully independent government-funded auditing body is set up, the poor auditors seem inevitably locked into witnessing a plot they will just never get.

Eddie Cairns, Springburn, Glasgow

The euro name game

If we join Euroland, will Julia Penny (‘Letters’, 4 February, page 19) change her surname to Cent? Or would such a devaluation make no sense at all?

Craig Robinson, ACA, Bucks

Hedge your euro exchange risks with a little bit of PAYE

I refer to the letter from Vernon James (4 February, page 19) and ‘Paying your tax in euros’ (21 January, page 13).

As a consultancy specialising in euro readiness advice, the quick bottom line for the taxpayer is … ‘I want to offset an exchange risk because a customer wanted me to bill in euros and I don’t know what to do with the money. I’ll pay my PAYE with it.’

The trickle will become a stampede whether we like it or not. Just ask the French and other suppliers to a well-known French white goods manufacturer, or suppliers to the UK motor industry, what the euro introduction really means.

While we may not like the euro, the strategic impact of it is this: it is here, and the supply chain will ensure it becomes an often-used functional currency, even if we get the option to decide that we do not want it as a national currency.

Daniel Clark, ACA,

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