News in Brief – 5 March

NAO report sparks row

A National Audit Office report due out today is set to re-ignite controversy over the privatisation of the UK’s three rail rolling stock companies. It is expected to criticise the government for not including a clause allowing it to profit from takeovers of sold-off companies. The criticism relates particularly to Porterbrook Leasing which was sold by the government for #475m then sold on eight months later to Stagecoach for #825m.

PAC criticises HMSO sale

The Public Accounts Committee this week slammed the handling of the privatisation of HMSO, the government’s printer. Maria Eagle, a Labour member of the committee, accused Robin Mountfield, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, of allowing a misleading picture of the business to be painted. The committee’s attack follows an NAO report which revealed the HMSO was sold for #32m less than the lowest bid.

Bourn warns of transit loss

Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, this week told Parliament weaknesses in the European Community’s customs transit system, used to document goods moving across Europe, resulted in losses to national and EC budgets of almost #1bn. In the medium to long-term, Bourn said computerisation would solve many of the procedural and security problems of customs transit and improve anti-fraud operations.

Deloittes nabs KPMG IT man

One of KPMG’s leading IT consultants defected this week to Deloitte & Touche. David Boyd, former head of applications within KPMG Management Consulting, took up a position with Deloittes as partner responsible for enterprise applications on Monday. He will be responsible for winning and leading IT implementation projects based around enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems from Oracle and PeopleSoft.

Tax breaks for plane leasing

The aerospace industry is set to pressure European governments to increase tax breaks for aircraft leasing arrangements. Last week British Airways challenged aircraft suppliers Boeing and Airbus Industrie to find innovative finance deals to help them acquire aircraft without BA having to hold them as assets. The company producing the best package could win the aerospace industry’s largest order – 100 planes – for the next five years.

Arnheim gets good results

Arnheim & Co, the UK member of the Price Waterhouse Legal Network, celebrated its second anniversary on Monday with records showing another year of sustained growth. Staff numbers rose from 44 to 59 including nine new partners. The firm’s European law network grew by 50% with four new law firms joining over the past 12 months taking the network to more than 30 offices in 24 countries.

CAF looks into US tax system

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has commissioned research to examine the possibility of moving towards a US-style tax system for charitable donations. The Institute of Fiscal Studies will consider whether the UK charity sector would benefit by adopting a system where all donations are offset against a donor’s charitable income.

Double income for Tax Team

A boom in self-assessment work saw The Tax Team announce an 184% increase in turnover this week. Business between April 1997 and January 1998 doubled compared to the same period last year following the advent of the new tax regime. An even greater increase is expected by the Horsham-based business as the March Budget promises more changes to the tax system.

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