Walking the talk on e-business

Meanwhile the government’s e-envoy Alex Allen continues to tell businesses that ministers are serious when they say they mean e-business.

In the City, however, the reaction to this fervour is muted. QXL is justly proud of an eightfold increase in its share price over the last three months of 1999.

But QXL – like Freeserve, and Britain’s other stars – is not happy with the government and Brown in particular.

With share prices rocketing skywards these businesses face a national insurance nightmare. In recruiting and retaining staff, these start-up companies can only promise jam tomorrow through share options.

But these options are subject to employers national insurance – based on the value of that share price.

In QXL’s case a whopping £15m.

Not surprisingly the companies want to see it changed. They have a point.

The charge to the company is made when the employee sells his or her shares. So the better these companies perform, the higher their national insurance bills.

This ‘share price tax’, as QXL have labelled it, is not a tax on profits but a tax on the profits the market believes a company might make.

If Brown wants to deliver a Budget for e-business next month, he might wish to start here.

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