News in Brief – 9 April

BT gets first prize at ACCA

British Telecom scooped first prize in ACCA’s seventh annual environmental reporting awards. The award, presented by environment minister Michael Meacher, recognised BT’s ‘targets were clear and quantified, and progress is reported in a straightforward manner.’

‘Flying squad’ in Irish banks

The Irish government has recruited a ‘flying squad’ of accountants to carry out spot checks on financial institutions as part of an investigation into overcharging. The investigation follows confirmation by National Irish Bank that some customers were deliberately overcharged. The accountants will be able to arrive unannounced at banks and examine books, documents and audit reports.

E&Y assesses year 2000 problem

Ernst & Young has been recruited to the government’s drive to beat the millennium bug. The firm is running a risk-assessment study of the effect of the year 2000 computer problem for key areas of the national infrastructure. E&Y is due to submit its initial report by May.

Read codes fiasco lives on

A note about the Read codes fiasco may be included in the next set of annual accounts of a Leicestershire Health Authority. The health authority is to consult with its auditor about the appropriate form of the note in its accounts. The NHS executive was slated by the National Audit Office last month for buying the central database from Dr James Read and then granting his company an exclusive licence to run the system.

PFI hospitals programme

The government said this week health trusts had signed contracts for the construction of 11 hospitals worth #1bn under the private finance initiative, taking the total value of PFI deals beyond the #2.5bn target set for this year by the previous Tory administration.

UK tax rates among lowest

Budget changes to corporation tax saw the UK’s rate lodged firmly among the lowest in the world, according to KPMG. The new rate – 31% falling to 30% next April – takes the UK below the Asia Pacific and Latin American average of 32% and is far better than France (41.6%), USA (40%) and Germany (56.6%).

PW appoints 45 partners

Price Waterhouse has appointed 45 new partners to its UK practice. The firm, due to merge with Coopers & Lybrand in the summer, made up 14 partners in audit, 12 in management consultancy, nine in financial advisory services, seven in tax and legal and three in its leadership team.

Phone services save on VAT

The financial services industry could save millions in VAT on outsourced telephone sales and integral marketing functions, following Ernst & Young’s recent victory at a VAT tribunal for client CSC Financial Services. CSC sells PEPs over the telephone on behalf of three financial services companies. The tribunal ruled the service was VAT-exempt.

West Country firm first to return

At 9am on Monday, West Country accountancy practice AC Mole & Sons claimed to have filed the first two returns for the 1997/1998 tax year. The firm used the Inland Revenue’s Electronic Lodgment System. The returns were prepared using Transaction Technology’s Iris personal taxation software.

Management buyouts soar

Management buyout activity soared to a record #5.25bn for the first quarter of 1998, according to the Centre for Management Buy-Out Research. The research, sponsored by Deloitte & Touche, found average transaction sizes have doubled since 1997.

Fraudster’s sentence cut

Convicted fraudster Robert Feld, the former chief executive of Resort Hotels, had his prison term cut from eight to six years by the Court of Appeal this week. But Coopers & Lybrand, Resort Hotels’ auditor, still faces claims for damages from shareholders.

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