Finance: In Brief

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THE EUROPEAN Court has begun hearing arguments in a VAT case that could cost the UK Exchequer billions of pounds, says Pricewaterhouse-Coopers. Four companies - Royscot Leasing, Royscot Industrial leasing, Allied Domecq and TC Harrison Group - are challenging Customs & Excise's view that they should not be able to recover VAT on the purchase of cars for business use. A final decision from the court is expected early next year, and if it goes in favour of the companies, the Government will have to repay several years' worth of overpaid VAT.

PETER OWEN, one of Britain's most senior civil servants, has joined the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales as executive director responsible for professional standards. Brian Chiplin, currently director of Nottingham University's business school, is also joining as director of the education and training directorate. A third executive director, responsible for members' issues, will be appointed in the new year. All three will work alongside John Collier who, since being made secretary general earlier this year, has set about reorganising the institute.

FLEXIBLE BENEFITS is a concept much talked about in human resources circles, but, according to KPMG, not widely taken up by companies. The firm says that, despite increasing pressures for cost-effective staff recruitment and retention, only 42 per cent of companies questioned had even heard of the term "flexible benefits" and just 14 per cent had considered implementing such a scheme.