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Cable: Advisers progress in addressing avoidance concerns

ACCOUNTANTS are dealing with concerns over tax avoidance, according to business secretary Vince Cable.

Speaking at the Management Consultancies Association’s annual lecture, where he launched a government white paper on a growth strategy for the professional services industry, Cable said the sector was one of the UK’s “most exportable industries” and “leads the world”.

When Accountancy Age asked what the government’s true stance was on professional services, given its vocal criticism of accountants, tax advisers, auditors and consultants, Cable said the industry was “not without problems”. But citing tax avoidance as a particular issue, he said that accountants were looking to rectify concerns.

“It’s being addressed [by accountants] in a professional way,” he said. “Generally, the industry provides high value-added services. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think so.”

The report, ‘Growth is our Business‘, calls for opening access into the industry to a wider pool of potential workers; and to drive entry into emerging markets.

The number of higher apprenticeships available to lawyers, consultants and accountants will be trebled to 10,000 a year over the next five years, with professional services predicted to expand by 600,000 jobs in the next ten years.

A network of senior business envoys will look to promote professional services and trade opportunities overseas, citing that the sector was responsible for 10% of all UK exports – £47bn – in 2011.

It was written jointly by the government and the Professional and Business Services (PBS) Council.

“Despite challenging times, exports in professional and business services have more than doubled over the past decade,” said Cable.

“I want our top executives to think British in all their overseas business, particularly in emerging markets where a growing middle-class is demanding higher-quality services. If a British advertising agency runs a campaign in India, there will be a British legal firm available to finalise the contract, or British accountancy firm to handle the transaction.”

PBS Council co-chair and Kingston Smith senior partner, Sir Michael Snyder added:

“The challenges and opportunities posed by the rise of the developing economies make it vital that the UK PBS sector is as competitive and adaptable as possible. An important part of meeting this challenge is widening access to PBS and increasing the diversity of our workforces and, therefore, our business leaders of tomorrow. This report contains concrete proposals for making this aspiration a reality.”

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