Letters – 4 Feb

Building up to a big profit

When land outside town and village boundaries is re-zoned from green, normally agricultural, use to building land, should the astronomic increases in value be subject to a special tax?

For the last 50 years this has been a contentious issue politically, but now, surely, the case for such a tax is stronger than ever.

Planning Acts since the war have sought increasingly to protect the countryside from being re-zoned to building land. This has resulted in the price of building land becoming ever more expensive, and has made the new buildings on it cost considerably more than they otherwise would have.

We have accepted this because we want to protect as much of our countryside as possible for future generations. It is we, the community, and not the particular landowners, who have created most of the exceptional scarcity value of greenfield building sites. It should be on the community, via the tax system, who get most of the benefit when such sites are first built on.

If a green land re-zoning profits tax was levied at, say, 80%, the government would receive around #2bn to #3bn a year extra tax.

The landowner would still enjoy perhaps a 1,000% profit, after tax, and the development pressure for greenfield building land would hopefully move more towards brownfield sites.

John Freeman,

London SW7

Millennium bugs me!

Why, oh why, do all and sundry – including, it seems, the DfEE (enclosure in Accountancy Age 21 January) – persist in calling the Y2K problem the millennium bug?

And my complaint is not because the year 2000 is only the last year of the current millennium, and not the first year of the new millennium – a mistake even Accountancy Age makes. Your ‘Leader’ (21 January, page 14) commences: ‘With only 11 months still to go before the start of the new millennium’.

No, my complaint is that the problem arises when 99 flips over to 100 (or rather, doesn’t).

It is a pure coincidence that it is to happen when 1999 ends and 2000 starts. Had computers been invented in the middle of the 17th century, then the bug would have come at the end of 1699 and the start of 1700. It is therefore a ‘century bug’.

Perhaps a better name is needed – Century Challenge or Hundred-Year Wart.

Perhaps Accountancy Age might offer a prize for the best suggestion.

If not, I could go as far as offering a pint of real ale in one of my locals (the winner would have to make their own way to West Yorkshire!).

Peter Judge ACMA, Brighouse

…Why waste eight column inches printing rubbish that you could check in 30 seconds (‘Letters’, 21 January, page 15)?

Both Excel (version 5) and Lotus 1-2-3 (Smartsuite 97) have no trouble subtracting days across the millennium divide. They both give the right answer. Both programs are intelligent enough to guess that ’00’ is 2000.

The solution is for your correspondent to spend #100 plus VAT and upgrade his software to a proper spreadsheet.

Simon Pocock FCCA,


…I note from your ‘Leader’ (21 January) that there are only 11 months to go before the start of the new millennium, so presumably you are under the impression that it starts on 01/01/00? Since the numeral ‘1’ indicates the first of anything (for example, first is written ‘1st’), I would have thought the new century/millennium will start on 01/01/01?

However, if you are right, perhaps you could enlighten me as to why the first two millennia, which by definition should last 2,000 years, will in fact come to an end after only 1999 years?

HDE Simpson, Crowborough,

East Sussex

…Can someone explain to me the current trend to refer to the years in the next millennium as two thousand and odd. To my mind, the correct terminology should be twenty hundred, as it is for the present millennium ie, nineteen hundred and odd. I do not know anyone who contends that the last war lasted from one thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, to one thousand nine hundred and forty-five.

The last World Football Cup was in nineteen ninety-eight, and the next one will be in twenty-o-two – not ‘two thousand and two’ unless, of course, we wish to change all our important dates.

One thousand and sixty-six and all that?

EA Russell,

South Shields

…I read your ‘Leader’ (21 January) with interest.

As a management accountant, and IT professional of some 30 years (retired – open to offers – no guarantees except best efforts), I wonder what happened to all those accountants/managers and others who agreed (and/or specified the system/s) the specs, and just asked where the corners could be cut to balance the budget in order to ensure board approval.

There is a problem, it requires resolution, apportionment of blame is academic and does not contribute towards this end.

Bill Thomasson ACMA,

Taxing issue of the euro

Your ‘Tax Update’ feature (21 January, page 13) reminds us that we may now pay our tax in euros. As I understand it, until we agree otherwise by referendum, the euro remains just another foreign currency. Will the Inland Revenue now bring in procedures for us to pay our tax in roubles or rupees?

Every organisation liable to UK tax, however much it prematurely anticipates the UK embracing the euro, will have to retain procedures for paying in sterling until such time as we actually join.

So why pay in euros? Can it be that some finance directors are looking around for something different to do? Or is it just that someone in the Revenue is looking for something to put on his CV? Or is the government gradually easing us into something the majority of us do not want?

Vernon James,


Cashing in on the name game

As a chartered accountant who had the honour of serving articles from 1957 onwards with Messrs Cash, Stone & Co. I can vouch for the existence of the name Cash in relation to accounting matters (William Cash, president 1921/3).

The firm eventually merged with Harmwood-Banner, providing one of the longest names of accountancy firms at the time: Harmwood-Banner, Cash, Stone & Mounsey, but subsequently succumbed to Deloittes and eventually Coopers & Lybrand.

James P Galliano MBE, FCA, Gibraltar

…On the topic of Andrew Fisher’s letter (21 January) regarding comic names, I thought I might provide him with a little further amusement.

No, I cannot offer a Mr Cash, but I think Julia Penny is still a pretty apt name for a chartered accountant.

I am the technical manager in Chantrey Vellacott DFK’s technical and training department.

No doubt some of the delegates on the courses might share Andrew Fisher’s amusement!

Julia Penny ACA, Chantrey Vellacott DFK

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