Weekly news review: HMRC on the offensive as HMV goes into administration

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HMRC on the offensive, HMV and Blockbuster go into administration and an edible office all made the headlines this week. Steven Perryman licks his lips at the week’s news

1. Tax

The UK has been freezing under Arctic conditions this week and, so far, there has not even been a sign of a salt shortage. What is happening? Amidst all the snow and ice is some news to warm the heart – and the wallet.

This week it was reported that perennial sandwich retailer, Subway, is to take its case about paying VAT on its toasted sandwiches and meatball marinaras to the Court of Appeal. That could be a 20% saving to go with the heartburn. Whether Tesco will be doing the same for its, ahem, ‘beef’ burgers remains to be seen.

The Self Assessment deadline, meanwhile, draws ever closer. A fact that has prompted HMRC to confirm that its online filing facility will be fully available ahead of the 31 January deadline. Thanks for that. The Government department has also updated its tax calculator app this week, so there really is no excuse for leaving it until the last minute although, as this column reported last week, that’s what most people will do anyway.

But Self Assessment isn’t the only candle HMRC is burning right now. AccountingWeb has reported that HMRC will target up to 50,000 businesses that have failed to submit VAT returns, with warnings that their tax affairs will be closely scrutinised. Any returns remaining outstanding after 28 February will see their tax affairs attract ‘greater attention’. Another date for the diaries.

With that news still reverberating, it was quite fitting that this week saw a Scottish DJ sentenced to nine years in jail after being found guilty of five charges of VAT fraud totalling £20.5m. That’s a lot of meatball marinaras.

On the other side of the pond online retail behemoth Amazon has landed itself in more choppy tax waters. This week Financial Director reported that the retailer is fighting the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over a $234m (£145m) international tax bill. The dispute involves allegedly unpaid taxes for 2005 and 2006. Just don’t send in Andrew Cecil as your firefighter, OK guys?

Community managers the world over drew an intake of breath this week with reports that Twitter-owned company Tweetdeck is at risk of being dissolved after repeatedly failing to submit accounts to Companies House (#problem).

Finally, as if suffering a wardrobe malfunction live on TV, whilst losing a ‘skate off’ against Naked Jungle legend Keith Chegwin, wasn’t bad enough, Baywatch stalwart Pamela Anderson’s week got even worse. AccountancyLive reported that Anderson is being chased by the IRS for outstanding tax bills of over £162,000 dating back to 2011. An I’m a Celebrity appearance later in the year beckons, surely?

2. Business

Over in the world of retail it’s been a week of differing fortunes on the high street. The week began with news that Amazon has launched a service that stores free digital versions of CDs bought via its store. The story proved to be a death knell for HMV with news mere days later that the music and DVD chain is to appoint Deloitte as its administrator, with 4,350 jobs at risk. It’s a move which could see the HMV dog disappear, a demise not as grisly as Tatler’s office pooch, Alan, who sadly died in a revolving door incident this week.

Not to be outdone, rental chain Blockbuster (yes, they are still in business) also went into administration this week bemoaning online film products for its demise. You can’t help but wonder how the 500-store, former market leader got left so far behind in the online boom.

As always, one person’s loss is another’s gain, with Curry’s reporting an 8% sales rise, thanks to a spike in demand for tablets and, no doubt, the loss of its main competitor, Comet, before Christmas.

Meanwhile, Stateside has seen mixed fortunes for Apple. This week the fruit-named technology company’s shares dipped below $500 amid reports it had cut orders for parts from screen suppliers for its iPhone 5. The damage had been done by the time Forbes pointed out that the New York Times – the title that broke the original story – had almost certainly got its facts wrong.

3. HR

It’s the New Year – a time when we all take a retrospective look at our career. Well, until February that is.

So spare a thought for the US software developer who decided to outsource his job to China at low cost, leaving him free to spend his workdays surfing the web, watching cat videos on YouTube and browsing Reddit and eBay. Exploitative criminal or unerring genius? You decide.

Before you do outsource your job for a life of internet futzing, spare a thought for your office environment. BBC News has been doing just that this week, with a special report highlighting the benefits of edible offices. Mmm, nice idea. What’s on offer? Gourmet hamburgers? Pasta? Coq au Vin, perhaps? Nope. It’s a wall of…green algae. Isn’t that what you find in ponds? We’ll give that one a miss.

4. And finally…

We do like a good ‘that’s really a college course?’ story. Hot on the heels of Salford University’s degree in comedy – laughably launched by Peter Kaye – is a course in The X Factor.

Yep, Bishop Auckland College has developed a 17-week programme which will train students in ‘singing, performing and auditioning’ for the (not so) popular ITV talent show. All for £95. Bargain.

You can but wonder about the modules on offer. ‘How to tell a sob story and cry at the same time,’ perhaps? Or maybe ‘How to get your Nan to vote you through each week’?

With Celebrity Big Brother and a glut of night club appearances lying in wait, it’s cheap at half the price.

Steven Perryman is AAT‘s Editorial Manager.

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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