In the headlines: Apple, revision tips and Obama

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Apple joining the tax avoidance bandwagon, calls for students to discover their ‘hippocampus’ when revising and Wiggo’s take on living the tax-free life in Monaco, all made the news this week. Steven Perryman rides through the week’s headlines

1. Tax – hacks take a bite out of Apple

We give up. Just when tax flirts with dissipating from the news, it keeps coming back. If anything, this has been the busiest week yet. The festive break seems our only hope now of a return to the silly season.

Another week, another American brand. This time it’s the biggest: Apple. The Californian technology company has apparently paid less than 2% tax on profit made outside the United States last year. And? Aren’t the business hacks getting a little lazy with these stories now? Surely news that Apple might be on the decline may be of more interest?

Rather depressingly, HMRC admitted this week that it is currently unable to prevent big multinational corporations from declaring their profits in foreign countries. But there is hope. The government has announced that it is to start recruiting a team to oversee the development of guidance on the new General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR) to tackle abusive tax avoidance. Heads of large American brands need not apply.

As you would expect, tax avoidance is still getting a lot of coverage. Perhaps too much. This means broadcasters are increasingly looking for ‘alternative’ viewpoints on the subject. BBC’s Newsnight is currently ahead of the game by inviting fashion blogger, Poppy Dinsey, on to discuss corporate tax avoidance.

Not necessarily a strange decision in its own right, although the exclusion of economist Richard Murphy – whose research they were discussing – was odd and led him to complain of ‘straightforward discrimination’. Which is just the sort of accusation the BBC could do with just now, right?

In other tax news, the airline we all like to hate – Ryanair – is embroiled in a tax case in Italy. The budget airline is facing a €12m (£9.6m) tax bill on an alleged violation of Italian tax and social security contributions to its Italian employees. That’s really great news for anyone who has had to face the dictatorial bag checking process at the boarding gate (not that I’m bitter about it).

2. Education – how the ‘hippocampus’ helps you revise

With half term out of the way, education news turned back to graduates with the rather depressing news that 40% fail to get graduate-calibre posts more than two years after leaving education. The study by Warwick University’s Institute for Employment Research tracked 17,000 people from the moment they began applying for higher education courses due to start in autumn 2006 into the winter of 2011-12. What with sky-high fees to contend with, the cost of a degree just keeps on rising.

In other news, ACCA students have been warned again that too many exam scripts are proving unreadable, leading to candidates possibly losing valuable marks if the markers can’t read them. Perhaps computer-based assessments are the answer, guys?

Ah, exams – the bane of all our lives. Revision tips are always handy – amusing acronyms being the obvious way to remember things, right? Not so, according to David Cox, a neuroscience student who wrote an interesting blog on revision for The Guardian this week. According to Cox: ‘When you learn something new, a group of neurons activate in a part of the brain called the hippocampus.’  The what? Is that a really word? Scrabble players take note.

3. And finally…Wiggo on Monaco

We couldn’t review this week without mentioning Barack Obama, who won his second term as US President. He was even winning once the race was won too. His tweeted picture of himself hugging his wife, Michelle, became the most retweeted post ever on the social networking site. Watch out for a cynical attempt at replicating that with a British politician very soon.

But we also have to mention Tour de France winner, Bradley Wiggins, who has been all over the news this week plugging his biography and getting knocked off of his bike. Amid all the column inches, it was his response to a question about avoiding tax by living in tax haven Monaco that caught our eye.

‘I wouldn’t go to Monaco or anywhere like that,’ he lamented. ‘It’s a s**t hole. I couldn’t think of a worse place to live.’

Don’t you just hate people who sit on the fence?

Steven Perryman is AAT’s Editorial Manager

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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