Letters – 5 August

Audit debate far from over

An article by Dame Sheila Masters in The Times, on the eve of the English ICA audit exemption debate, might have given the appearance, as stated in its introduction, that ‘Dame Sheila advocates raising the level of exemption to the maximum permitted in Europe’.

Dame Sheila stated she was playing devil’s advocate in putting the pro-abolition view so strongly, but the reader might think the institute has already formed a view; in fact, this is not the case. A working party has been established to examine the issues, consult fully and make a response to the DTI in due course.

In the light of Dame Sheila having aired one side of the argument, I thought the pro-audit view should also be given. Dame Sheila asks: ‘What is the point?’ The point is that small companies have the protection of limited liability, so can run up endless unsecured liabilities, often from other small businesses, without paying any price if their company fails. The article stated that ‘most commentators do not regard a company with a £4.2m turnover as a large business’. I disagree! The potential economic impact of such a company on its local community is great.

Dame Sheila asks for evidence of the value of the audit. Unfortunately, the real evidence may only be available after we have gone through the next recession with no audit in place – but that will be much too late for society.

Danielle C Stewart FCA FCCA, English ICA audit faculty committee and technical steering committee member

Reducing the audit burden What a breath of fresh air to read in The Times on 29 July of Dame Sheila Master’s advocacy for exempting statutory audit where possible for small companies – a blend of common sense and commercial savvy.

The many hundred small practitioners who have already signalled their support for the elimination of this burden will applaud her candour.

Just the approach required to blow away the hundred year old cobwebs festooning Moorgate Place and ensure our institute meets the real needs of modern business in the new millennium.

I suspect that this will not be the last such initiative in what is promising to be a thoroughly invigorating presidential year.

PJD Mitchell, chairman, Small Practitioners Association

No surprise there, then Ben Griffiths is ‘staggered’ that 38% of accountants would seek alternative careers given the chance (22 July, page 1). What surprises him? That 38% would change or that 62% would not. I would assume that most careers are less popular.

Richard McDougal, Chippenham, Wiltshire

Survey could be misleading The Careers Survey made interesting reading, but I feel that the comment about sexual discrimination being the least likely factor standing in the way of career progression may have been misleading.

We were not given the number of respondents, nor breakdown by gender, except with regards to the role table, which appeared to indicate that the majority of respondents were male.

I doubt whether many of the male accountants were concerned with sexual discrimination as a blockage to their career progression.

Barbara Dexter BA, ACMA, Derby

… Douglas Broom, editor of Accountancy Age, writes: There were 624 accountants who responded to our Careers Survey, of whom 69% were men and 31% were women.

No sense in ethical ride There are high horses and extremely high horses and Mr Dingle (Letters) is up there on the highest. Ethics doesn’t come into the argument over the proposed demise of one-person service companies. We advised clients of potential tax and national insurance savings from such companies or assisted them when organisations insisted they be formed (thus avoiding their liabilities as employers).

Now the Revenue is putting a stop to the practice and, except for complaining about badly-worded proposed legislation, we should stop moaning.

Colin Faulkner, Bartlow, Cambridge

Revenue wrongdoing Many people have found it necessary to operate through the medium of limited companies. It would seem wrong that the Revenue should be able to rule that such legal entities should be ignored and that it can replace properly constituted contracts with its own interpretation of the position.

F Irish FCCA, London W5

Support for ACCA forum May I add support to Mr Prosser, editor of the ACCA journal, (Letters, 29 July). For the last ten years I have been a persistent critic of the ACCA regime.

Among other aspects I have raised with the ACCA management are their, in my view, inept and expensive tactics on merger negotiations, the production of expensive glossy brochures touting overpriced courses, and their highly questionable election procedures.

However, I know from personal experience that Mr Prosser is very willing to publish the views of all strands of the accountancy profession.

ACCA’s problem is a combination of the apathy of its membership and the profligacy of its management.

Dr William Hipperson, Lindfield, West Sussex

Hip hip hooray, it’s time for stressed accountants to chill out Three cheers for Ann Baldwin – ‘All stressed up and no place to go’ (29 July). I have long held the same views and believe that the professions are losing highly skilled and motivated people because of their unwillingness to recognise that as human beings we need more in our lives than a diet of work, work, work.

To beat stress we should aim to work on our own terms, expect more of our own lives and from the companies we work for and accept that the trade-off will be that we earn less as a result.

I have sensed over the last few months that even the larger firms are recognising these problems. All firms need to explore part-time work or job-share opportunities (you don’t have to be a parent to find such options attractive) accept that information technology makes it possible for some employees and partners to work from home and offer unpaid leave and sabbaticals.

An accountancy qualification should not be a recipe for stress – it ought to be a passport to a civilised life.

Sarah Deeks LLB FCA, Dorking, Surrey

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