Two big issues in your manifesto for change

Readers of Accountancy Age have begun revealing their manifesto

This week we highlighted the issues that readers have on their minds. Chief
among them are two key ideas that deserve a hearing.

First is the notion that National Insurance Contributions should be merged
with income tax. This is for two reasons. Overwhelmingly, our readers say that a
merger would end the charade that NICs are not a tax.

Certainly when an individual considers their personal tax burden there is no
doubt that NICs are taken into account.

Many outside the Treasury view NICs as a tax by another name.

But readers also see huge administrative cost savings to be made if the two
are dealt with in the same way.

In fact, last year the Treasury attempted to deal with this very question by
publishing a report on whether NIC and income tax should go through an
administrative alignment.

The conclusion was no because some people would end up paying more.

Merger was not on the agenda of this report so there is still work for a new
government to do. No system need last for ever. Nominally, NICs are to be spent
on state pensions but in 2009 NICs raised £98bn while pensions
cost around £107bn – a substantial shortfall. This would be a sensitive issue to
tackle, but it must be overdue for review.

The other big issue concerning our readers is protecting the term
“accountant”. Accountants look at their colleagues in law firms and believe they
are not being treated fairly and, moreover, that the public is not being
adequately protected from people who call themselves an accountant but have no
formal training.

Perhaps here there is light at the end of the tunnel. In 2008 Vince Cable was
among four MPs who signed an Early Day Motion calling for protection.

As happens with most motions, it went nowhere. But with a hung parliament
looming we might be tantalisingly close to seeing Cable and the Lib Dems exert
some influence over future government policy.

The big issue here is that unqualified accountants are not regulated and
therefore do not face the risk of discipline should their behaviour be less than

The counter arguments are that protection would create a closed shop, reduce
choice to the public and potentially open up the profession to more influence
from government. Labour has not budged on the issue.

But would you vote for the Lib Dems just to have protection for accountants?
We go to the polls next week.

Further reading:

See what else is on
accountancy’s manifesto

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