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If anyone wants to use this smaller audience to knock about some ideas about the content of this document informally, you’re very welcome to add comments here.
We are very pleased to announce that Baker Tilly Klitou (auditors, accountants, tax and management consultants) have been awarded the Cyprus Special Exports Award for services for the year 2011. This is a great honour for our firm. This award is a recognition towards the quality of our services and the dynamism and persistence of our people, in achieving great results in our efforts to promote our services and our country as a business and financial centre. The annual Cyprus Services Exports Award falls under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This annual award constitutes an outstanding support towards the Cypriot economy but especially to the businesses in the service industry, which are the backbone of the economic activities of our country, accounting to more than 70 per cent of our GDP. The 2011 Cyprus Special Exports Award for Services opens new horizons for us and demands the setting of higher goals for the future. And we can only achieve this by working closely as one team – one cohesive force with our people and our clients. Committed in providing quality business solutions. Contributing towards the advancement of our country’s economy in these challenging times.
We at Quoracy.com would like to congratulate Marios and his firm on this prestigious award.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.
Writing in the UK Guardian today, (page 31 – if you cannot buy the paper, you’ll find it among the related articles below assuming it is still available if you are reading this in a few weeks), Polly Toynbee accuses the Big Four of being “at the heart of almost every tax-avoiding scheme”. She proceeds to comment on their grip of the audit market and that, despite grave failures in auditing the banks they have not been disciplined by professional bodies.
Thank you, Ms Toynbee! We at Quoracy.com would just add that their immense lobbying power at the level of governments and regulatory institutions – their virtual control as a cartel of almost every regulatory insitution for audit in the EU – has made them almost impossible to punish. At the same time the middle tier audit Firms, with far fewer blemishes on their records, are bearing a proportionately greater brunt of the reforms that these Big Four governed or influenced “independent” bodies have enacted or are in the process of enacting.
No doubt they hope that they can pass their latest trick of raising the audit thresholds, in which the hidden agenda is to weaken the next tier down from the Big Four even more in the hope that some of the firms disappear (already appears to be happening to PKF from what was spoken about at their recent Cuba conference, and the merging into BDO of three already of their G20 firms) and that others will tone down or give up their audit offer. After which time, of course, they will no doubt be ready to lower the thresholds once again, in order to grab what they can from the reduced state of their mid-tier competition.
You heard it here first. Or maybe you know it already. If you’ve been running a mid-tier audit firm, you probably know it only too well…
- Tories at half-time: cruel and inept, with worse to come | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian (dralfoldman.com)
- Should tax-avoiding companies be named and shamed? – video (guardian.co.uk)
- Britain could end these tax scams by hitting the big four | Polly Toynbee (guardian.co.uk)
- Be bold, Labour, and expose Osborne’s skivers v strivers lie | Polly Toynbee (guardian.co.uk)
This week has seen the issue of corporation tax paid – or rather not paid – in the UK come to the boil, after simmering for several weeks with the articles of various MPs from various parties in various newspapers. It has now made the front page news and there has been an open harangue on three companies, Starbucks, Google and Amazon in the Public Accounts Committee by a group of British MPs headed up by Margaret Hodge.
The argument of the Committee is that these are companies who have made a good deal of turnover in the UK but they haven’t paid any tax. The way in which this has occurred is that they haven’t shown much by way of profits in the UK. They are now being told by Mrs Hodge that she doesn’t believe that they have not made profits in the UK given so much turnover, she thinks that profits are being salted away to other countries, like Luxembourg or Holland, using various techniques such as management charges, royalty fees, transfer prices, etc.
There are of course laws which are set up to determine whether profits in the UK are being assessed fairly – there is transfer pricing legislation and the Inland Revenue are able to investigate whether Transfer Pricing has been used. However, in the end what Mrs Hodge’s argument has boiled down to is the fallacious “argument from incredulity” – she cannot believe that the businesses have not made bigger profits (she seems to be oblivious to the fact that there is a recession going on out there and has been for some time, and that companies in all sectors and of all sized are bankrolling losses), and since she cannot believe it, it cannot be true.
In the case of Amazon a particular point was made – in addition to the insulting of Amazon’s spokesman Mr Andrew Cecil by accusing him of “gross ignorance” – namely when he pointed out that of course Amazon has paid taxes, only not corporation tax, they have paid VAT and employment taxes and created jobs – Hodge said that this argument was irrelevant because also the corner bookshops which would have sold those books would have created those jobs (fictional employment was always beloved by the left) and that Amazon, by making offshore structures involving Luxembourg, were making those little corner bookstores less competitive.
The fact is, however, that Amazon is not competing with little bookstores – it’s the Internet, new technology, which is competing with physical bookstores, but anyone with any kind of memory ought to be able to remember how a few large stores like WHSmiths and Waterstones already managed to put the corner shop bookstores out of business long before the Internet came along. Also if you look at markets like Poland or the Czech Republic, where they have online stores for books but not so much by way of the colossal physical bookstores the way the UK has, there the corner bookstore is alive and well. So Mrs Hodge has absolutely the wrong villain in her sights if she wishes to defend the corner store bookshop. But if she really was interested in championing them, then where was her voice railing against expansions by Waterstones and Smiths ten to fifteen years ago, which transformed that industry then just as much as the internet does now? Where is her voice against the Net Book Agreement, which makes it very hard in the UK for small businesses to deal in new books against larger companies? Tax is important, but it is only a thin layer of icing on that particular rather thick cake.
She admitted also that she wasn’t accusing Amazon of being illegal, only of being “immoral”. I am sorry, but is Luxembourg not another EU state in good standing? Is it now “immoral” to use the EU structures that were offered to us as the bait for getting us to sign up to the Single Market in the first place? Well, if there is any immorality in all of this, I can’t see it on the part of the private businesses. I see immorality and utter hypocrisy in the way these MPs, elected members of a government, blame business for their own failures. Failure in so many years of our being in the EU to sort out some kind of harmonisation in income taxes and corporate income taxes meaning that people are able to doing interesting kinds of arbitrage between EU legislations both in terms of their personal taxes and corporate profits taxes. They have had so many years and so many terms of office to sort this matter out.
In fact the answer in Amazon’s case is ridiculously simple – the UK has held a zero rate of VAT for books in order not to penalise reading, but bookselling companies paid the same profits taxes as any other kind of company. That means that book VAT in the UK isn’t even propely harmonised with the rest of the EU. VAT cannot easily be evaded, and even Margaret Hodge couldn’t deny that Amazon paid VAT, merely dismissed it as irrelevant. So what the government can do to produce a more level playing field is to put the general rate of VAT on books and reduce the profits tax for companies all of whose income comes from the sale of books. This would force booksellers who are in a lot of different businesses to be just in books in order to profit from the reduction, and it would mean that it would be of less worry who used corporate income tax reducing techniques, as they would be spending time and money reducing a smaller imposition anyway, and therefore would be less likely to do it.
Schools could be enabled to reclaim the input VAT, the students of university colleges also, therefore the impact on education would be minimised.
I wonder whether anyone in Government will consider this solution, or work towards the harmonisation of EU member state corporation taxes which we all believed back in 1993 was likely to happen before the turn of the Millennium, or whether they will continue, like Margaret Hodge, to blast other people in the private sector for doing their jobs properly while government continues to neglect its own job with impunity.
- Tax row: ‘pathetic’ Amazon man humiliated by MPs (theweek.co.uk)
- Amazon, Google and Starbucks accused of diverting UK profits (guardian.co.uk)
- Starbucks Boss Denies Making Money in Britain (sfluxe.com)
- MP Margaret Hodge calls for boycott of Starbucks, Amazon and Google over ‘tax avoidance’ (standard.co.uk)
The EGIAN Position Paper in full (republished by permission) Quoracy.com fully endorses the views expressed in this document
AN EGIAN POSITION PAPER
EGIAN SUPPORTS ROBUST REFORM PROGRAMME FOR THE EUROPEAN UNION AUDIT PROFESSION
PRINCIPLES AND ACTIONS
1 THE URGENT NEED FOR CHANGE
The creation of a more open vibrant market in the audit of large listed companies is urgently needed to protect and advance the public interest. If no action is taken, the currently excessive levels of concentration in this segment of the audit market in nearly all Member States of the European Union will very likely continue to rise even further, not least as a result of non-Big 4 firms being taken over by their dominant Big 4 competitors in key markets. An example of how to define large listed companies is set out at the end of this paper. Read more…