Letters – 6 May

Support the motion

We are a four-partner firm and continue to train English ICA students. Over the years we have become increasingly concerned about the inclusion in the examination syllabuses of material that is of no value to our students.

Interestingly, the large firms say the same. Members in business want to see more emphasis on management. No-one can agree on what can be left out of the syllabuses.

The institute’s proposals for elective advanced papers offer for the first time the prospect of a syllabus aimed at general practice.

We welcome the prospect of greater coverage of general practice subjects such as personal finance and company secretarial procedures. Furthermore, this benefit for general practice is not at the expense of those wanting advance topics in corporate finance or taxation for multinational companies.

There is no doubt that the institute’s syllabuses must change if firms of all sizes are to continue training English ICA students.

We, therefore, urge all members to support the institute’s education and training motion at the agm on 8 June.

T Cook FCA, Stockton-on-Tees

No change to tax burden Richard Baron (‘How to find out if Labour raised tax’, 22 April) addresses the question of whether taxes are going up or down under the current government.

As Richard rightly points out at the end of his article, the easiest way to measure this is to look at the proportion of national income absorbed by tax: the so-called tax/GDP ratio. By examining the figures set out in the March 1999 Budget ‘Red Book’, and earlier Budget ‘Red Book’s, the question becomes fairly easy to answer.

Treasury figures show that between 1996/1997 (the Conservatives’ final year) and 2001/2002 (the likely final year of Labour’s first five-year term) the tax burden on a like-for-like basis will have increased from 35.4% of GDP to 37.6%. Each 1p on the basic rate of income tax is set to raise just under 0.3% of GDP; thus the annual tax burden will be higher in 2001/2002 as compared with 1996/1997, by the equivalent of raising the basic rate of income tax by around 8p in the £.

Further analysis shows that about half this increase (i.e. 4p) is due to the ‘delayed impact’ of tax rises announced by the Conservatives, while the other half is Labour’s own work.

So we are looking at a situation in which the tax burden is rising sharply over the course of Labour’s first five-year term, with around half the increase attributed to measures introduced by the previous government and half caused by the current government.

No change there, then!

Maurice Fitzpatrick, head of economics, Chantrey Vellacott DFK, London WC1

Currency of memories Martin Haslam and David Keymer (‘Letters’ 29 April) obviously have short memories. Belgium and Luxembourg effectively had a common currency until they joined the euro.

Britain and Ireland had a similar arrangement until 20 years ago.

In the last century, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Greece were part of the Latin Monetary Union. Others can no doubt add to this list.

As far as I can see, all these countries have survived and none of their peoples have felt subjugated.

Mike Frampton FCMA, Horsham

We still have a choice I write in response to Martin Haslam and David Keymer’s letter seeking support for their campaign

to retain the pound and resist joining the single currency.

The UK Independence Party was formed in 1991 for this very purpose, and since then has fought at every election, both national and European.

We will contest every constituency in the June 1999 European election.

Readers who wish to retain the pound and keep Britain out of the Economic and Monetary Union will now know that there is a party offering the electorate an unequivocal choice and a chance to get Britain out of the corrupt mess that attracts our other politicians like flies to a cesspit.

A recent MORI poll (March 1999) seeking voting intentions, assuming UKIP to be the only party campaigning to retain the pound and get Britain out of the EU, found that 25% would vote UKIP.

We are reflecting a widely held view and gathering support as the public realise that we are here and doing something about it. Now you too can do something as well.

Rob Bryant FCA, Bromley, Kent

Profession will survive Having read ‘Turf Wars Harm Global Influence’ (15 April), I feel obligated to refute the speculation that ‘growth of global standards will make bodies like the English ICA redundant’.

The widespread though unofficial use of US GAAP as an international standard for many years has not undermined the credibility of UK professional qualifications, nor has it held back UK businesses in the global marketplace. It has simply mandated that many UK qualified accountants, whether it is included in their exam syllabus or not, are also competent in US GAAP. Replacing US GAAP with IAS or any other set of standards would not change this.

I don’t mean to underestimate the importance of our participation in setting global standards, only to point out that, worst case scenario, even if US GAAP is eventually usurped by a set of standards alien to the UK profession, it will still survive.

David Hughes, managing director, Executive Connections, London WC1R

Dim-witted revenue-raising measures ‘Taking Stock’ reported (29 April) that John Prescott has caused merriment in parliament when questioned on the witholding tax.

He was quite right to dismiss the idea as a joke and to compare it unfavourably with the discredited poll tax.

To tax the holding of certain assets is a practical proposition, but a tax on wit is surely ludicrous. How would such a tax be assessed? Would it lead to a brain drain? Would half-wits and dimwits pay at reduced rates? Would accountants be exempted?

Frankly, if the Treasury is really this desperate for more revenue, why not a tax on published spelling mistakes?

David Townsend, Brentwood, Essex

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