AAT news review: Osborne praying for a Budget 2013 delay of Bieber proportions

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George Osborne winning no more friends by opposing a cap on bankers’ bonuses, HMRC preparing itself for Real Time Information (RTI) and why Stella English needs business tips from Robbie Fowler. Steven Perryman on this week’s news

It’s now just a week and a half until this year’s Budget. With time running out fast, George Osborne must be praying for a delay of Bieber proportions. At this rate he may even consider joining members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who announced they will strike on the Chancellor’s big day this week.

Osborne opposes cap on bankers’ bonuses

After last year’s widely-condemned Budget, the 4G auction and the UK’s loss of its AAA credit rating, the Chancellor is scrambling around for some of those obligatory rabbits in the hat.

Not that he helped his cause this week by standing alone in opposing EU plans to curb bankers’ bonuses, believing the move could damage London’s financial centre. You have to admire his ability to not get caught up in the zeitgeist of evil bankers, but his public image just concaved with that move.

He could do worse than look no further than Eastleigh – the railway town in Hampshire which became the epicentre of UK politics with its by-election this week – for tax advice. The seat was won by Liberal Democrat Mike Thornton, a business development manager for Portal Tax Claims. With Thornton bringing his knowledge of tax to the back-benches, George better watch his back (literally) in the Commons from hereon.

Budget 2013 predictions begin in earnest

As you would expect, everyone and his dog is piping up with nuggets of wisdom on what the Chancellor should announce on 20 March.

Some say tax cuts are the answer; others argue the boil-on-the-bum issue of tax avoidance needs to be tackled head-on. Over in retail, Kingfisher CEO, Ian Cheshire, urged Osborne to reform the tax system to level the playing field between online retailers and traditional bricks and mortar operators. Others, like Public Finance, have even argued that the Chancellor’s hat is empty.

If that’s the case, perhaps we should just cancel the Budget this year? Not as radical an idea as you might think, with Economia magazine debating whether we really need the Autumn Statement and the Budget in the same year. They might be onto something there.

HMRC is never one to stay out of the headlines. This week it has been making waves by launching a campaign targeting individuals selling their second homes, without making any declaration of their profits to the tax authority. Take note all you lucky people with a beach hut in Clacton-on-Sea.

HMRC gets set for RTI backlash

Meanwhile, the government department’s next big date with destiny – the introduction of Real Time Information (RTI) in April – draws ever closer. This week it continued its offensive in urging employers to make sure they are prepared to switch over to real-time payroll reporting.

Its making moves into social media to handle some of the fall-out – or at least manage it. It will host online Q&As, including an ‘RTI week’ from 11-15 March, on its Twitter account during which staff will be on hand to answer questions tweeted to them via the #RTIqa hashtag.

Which will really warm the heart, especially of those UK businesses which, according to AccountingWEB, are facing costs of up to £30,000 to ensure their BACS software is compliant with RTI requirements for PAYE.

Ja Rule is ‘Always on Time’ – except with his tax returns

It seems a long time since we had a celebrity tax controversy, doesn’t it? Well, we can thank New York rapper Ja Rule for coming to our rescue this week. The rapper has admitted he failed to pay taxes on more than $3m (£2m) earned between 2004 and 2006 while he lived in New Jersey. We don’t want to mention his 2001 hit Always on Time but, hey, we just did.

Over in the tax avoidance world, Margaret Hodge MP reformed her Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to carpet Charity Commission boss William Shawcross, who admitted handling of the Cup Trust, which was revealed to have raised £177m, but spent just £55,000 on good causes, earlier this year.

It has been doom and boom in the travel industry this week with Thomas Cook axing 2,500 jobs, while tangoed budget airline easyJet has crept its way into the FTSE 100, vomit-inducing branding and all. Not that we will need either of those if this mild, Spring-like weather continues. What’s that? We will be getting snow next week? Better dust off the Winter coat one last time then, eh? Not that we should be surprised, with the Environment Agency warning this week that the UK must become more resilient to both drought and flooding.

Is former footballer Robbie Fowler the new Sarah Beeny?

We all love a good swipe at the IQ of footballers, don’t we? Well, forget Wayne Rooney, who famously had ‘Just Enough Education to Perform’ tattooed on his forearm (although not this week, Wayne – just enough to warm the bench more like). There’s a new guy in town.

Ex-Liverpool star Robbie Fowler launched a ‘property academy’ this week to teach the secrets of buy-to-let investing. Fowler, who is said to be worth £28m, built a portfolio of properties across the North West during his long playing career and is thought to own more than 80 rental properties. Do we have the next Sarah Beeny on our hands (minus the blonde hair and never-ending pregnancy)?

Either way, it’s a course former The Apprentice winner Stella English may want to consider. She has gone from hired to fired, and is now claiming constructive dismissal against Lord Sugar, describing the £100,000-a-year role she was given at his firm as that of an ‘overpaid lackey’, before claiming Sugar only uses the programme as PR. Really? Never. And there was us thinking prize burk Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ et al were some of the UK’s foremost business minds.

Although Stella could do worse than take inspiration from Stan Worby of Bradford who, not content with being a Chinese takeaway driver, also moonlights as Batman. Yep, Worby became a YouTube sensation this week after being filmed by CCTV dropping his mate off at the ‘cop station’ on his way back from a football match (which he had attended in fancy dress).

‘I’m no superhero. I eat kebabs. I never run anywhere. The furthest I walk is from my house to my car,’ Bradford’s answer to Christian Bale commented (no doubt breathlessly) on the furore.

Criminals of Bradford, you can rest easy.

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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