Value for everybody?[QQ] Mike Higgins (‘Good value for everybody’, 2 December, page 18) makes a very rational and convincing case for the adoption of shareholder value management. But then it seems that everybody who writes on the topic is equally rational and convincing. By now, it almost goes without saying that an organisation which has to compete to obtain and use other people’s money must generate returns on that money which exceed its cost to them. So why the apparent difficulties and controversy? My own experience as a director of a large public company would indicate that many rational and analytical people have missed most of the plot. The secret is that introducing value-based thinking into an organisation requires dealing with a whole raft of political, emotional, organisational and plain irrational factors. Let’s get real and recognise that organisations are complex and those who inhabit them are human beings who can be irrational, sceptical, play politics and be lazy-minded and resistant when it comes to change. They are also smart enough to need convincing that ‘maximising shareholder value’ is not just another way of sweating the assets and cutting the workforce. Don Young, Value Partnership, London W1 Double VAT standards Your article (‘M&S loses VAT ruling’, 6 January, page 1) does not surprise me, but it does show double standards. If the boot was on the other foot I am sure that Customs & Excise would expect M&S to pay the VAT due without any chance of M&S being able to recover their ‘losses’. If M&S had taken no action then we would still be paying VAT on our teacakes and the Revenue would be the only ones benefiting from this additional income. After all the money M&S spend on supporting the community it would not hurt for them to receive something back and the government would then have great pleasure on taxing the additional ‘income’. M Woodisse, Girton, Cambridge Protest over ethnic quiz All members of the English ICA have been asked to divulge their ethnic origin on monitoring forms sent out with the annual subscription papers. The objectives of the exercise have not been revealed. But whatever the objectives, it is unlikely that they will be achieved as the fastest growing ethnic group, people of mixed race, has been excluded from the list of categories. People in this group are forced to either choose between their parents by ticking the ethnic origin of their mother or father or marginalise themselves by ticking the ‘other’ category. No doubt the categories chosen have the support of the Commission for Racial Equality but I have yet to meet anyone who believes that the CRE is burdened by racial awareness. In support of the millions of mixed race people around the world and as a protest against the insensitivity of the institute, I shall not be completing the form and I hope other members will adopt the same attitude. John Rogers, London SW16 Minimising the interest I read with interest the recent letter from MC Storkey (Letters, 2 December) regarding the new subcontractors tax deduction scheme and the problems facing accountants and their clients in respect of on-account payments for 1999/2000. I have calculated that if earnings are anticipated to be constant in the year to April 2000 then the tax deducted for eight months will virtually equal the tax/class 4 liability for the year. You can therefore complete form SA303 applying for zero payments on account for both instalments. At worst the client will have to pay a small amount of interest on any tax paid late should a liability eventually ensue. B Seheult FCCA, Essex Taxing via the back door I have always advised business clients that class 4 national insurance is a hidden form of tax. It is a payment which does not achieve any benefit for the payer. The combining of income tax and national insurance contributions – particularly class 4 – therefore does not make sense from the point of view of simplicity and openness. However, I hope that if such a move takes place it is not a back door way of raising more tax. I do hope that provision will be made to reflect the fact that there are no class 1 employee contributions and no class 4 self-employed contributions in respect of earned income by reference to age 65 attainment. Harold James, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset IR35 sleaze is all around us It just shows that sleaze is all around us (‘Treasury minister embroiled in IR35 conflict row’, AccountancyAge.com, 24 December). We contractors have been saying from the beginning that the government’s decision is influenced by the big consultancies and their lobbying power and contacts. Now it looks like they have their own man inside. The government says it’s the champion of technology and small business. It has failed both these groups. Happy new year Mr Timms. He does not have to go looking for work every three months. Now that this is in the open he may have to resort to contracting! M Uddin, via e-mail Bogus caller may fool the unwary accountant Whilst I was engaged with a client, my secretary took a call from ‘the Revenue Investigation and Enforcement Unit at head office in London’. The caller stated that the matter was confidential and was to do with my practice rather than a client. No message could be left and they would call back. Albeit with a clear conscience, I was concerned but could find no trace of this unit in any of my services. When he rang again, it turned out the ‘unit’ is a firm of debt collectors offering to hound non-paying clients. I have two regrets. The first is that I allowed myself to be fooled and waste time trying to find out who they were. The second is that I was so angry that I forgot to ask for their details. So, be warned. Michael Cohen, Brighton, Sussex All letters should be sent to: The Editor, Accountancy Age, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG Tel: 020 7316 9236 Fax: 020 7316 9250 Or e-mail us on: firstname.lastname@example.org Accountancy Age reserves the right to edit letters for space or clarity. Please include your title, company name and a daytime telephone number.