News in Brief – 2 April

D&W denies Scottish feud

Reports of a growing feud between lawyers Dundas & Wilson and Scotland’s leading accountancy firms have been denied. Brian Dorman, D&W senior partner, said his comments in a national newspaper on the deterioration of links with Big Six accountancy firms since it became part of Arthur Andersen’s worldwide umbrella were taken out of context. ‘This is not an issue with D&W. Some Big Six firms have not recently referred work to us but we continue to have a healthy relationship with others.’

Unpaid NICs discovered

The government has identified 850 ‘phoenix’ directors owing a total of #26m in unpaid national insurance contributions. The contributions agency figures were revealed by Lord Haskel, who outlined the government’s proposed action to make directors personally liable for NI debts when company failure is due to serious negligence or fraud on their part. Haskel said ‘a small, specialised, highly trained’ team would investigate all company failures where NI is owed.

NI appeals reshuffle

National Insurance appeals will be dealt with by the special commissioners of income tax and not social security appeals tribunals when the contributions agency is merged with the Inland Revenue, the government indicated this week.

MPs need help for resourcing

The government has been warned MPs will need more expert advice to be able to cope with the switch to resource-based accounting. A report from the House of Commons Procedure Committee said: ‘Many members lack the technical expertise required to understand the existing estimates; the new ones will be more complex’. Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, warned the committee that for ordinary MPs ‘it will look overwhelming’.

FRED16 gets 1 May deadline

The Accounting Standards Board gave interested parties until 1 May to comment on a supplement to FRED 16 Earnings Per Share. The new exposure draft has been expanded to include guidance on employee share schemes, special dividends and contingently issuable shares. The ASB’s urgent issues taskforce also published a draft abstract on acquiring insurance businesses.

FSA calls for disclosure

The Foundation for Business Responsibilities called this week for new guidelines to require institutional investors to disclose the corporate governance policies of companies in which they own shares. An FSA spokesman doubted such a code would fit within its current remit.

SNP demands tax hike

MPs have called for a surprise tax hike to end discrimination against motor and electrical retailers selling warranties. The Scottish National Party demand followed the Budget imposition of insurance premium tax at 17.5% on travel insurance sold by brokers previously charged at 4%. The SNP’s Commons motion welcomed the end to discrimination against travel agents. The SNP wants the same action taken in the retail market to prevent traders losing out on the sale of extended warranties with electrical goods and cars.

PW calls for easier process

Price Waterhouse is encouraging the Financial Services regulators to simplify the process of pension transfers and opt-outs. PW wants regulators to use the current pension review process to adopt pragmatic steps allowing firms to calculate quickly and without complexity.

Princess Di’s school auction

An auction organised by receiver Deloitte & Touche for West Heath school in Sevenoaks, Kent, attracted premium bids thanks to the school’s most famous former pupil, Diana, Princess of Wales. It raised more than was expected, but was not enough to pay the outstanding liabilities, said Deloittes. Offers for the school building and grounds are invited before 15 April.

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