Credit crisis diary: Duty rise plan scotched by oversight on VAT

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Alistair Darling may be regretting his pledge to drink only tap water during Budget statements after the fuss his latest tax move on whisky has caused. The Chancellor was forced to halve a planned 8 per cent rise in excise duty yesterday after it was pointed out that the announced cut in VAT would not, as promised on Monday, cancel out the rise in tax on spirits. But the move immediately prompted the British Beer and Pub Association to contact the Treasury, calling for "fair treatment" on beer too. The discrepancy on spirits comes about because VAT is charged on price, while duty is levied on alcohol content, so there is not an exact match. Surely an oversight Ken Clarke, who used to stay hydrated with a glass of Glenfarclas malt during Budget speeches, would not have made?

Carlos Slim makes his move on Citigroup

It was another era, another country, a different financial crisis – but a similar story of bargain-hunting. The Mexican magnate Carlos Slim built his empire out of the ashes of that country's financial chaos in 1982, snapping up downtrodden industrial companies that mean these days he tussles with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates for title of Richest Man in the World. Which was why news of his most recent ash-raking purchases flies round the globe so fast. Via his Mexican broking firm, he has spent $134m (£87m) on Citigroup shares. Maybe something can be salvaged from the blaze after all.

'Thinking outside the box' gets you nowhere

Note to middle managers everywhere: the hotel staff are listening in when you grandstand at those company away days. Research from Ramada Encore, the hotel chain that styles itself as "business traveller-friendly", reveals that "thinking outside the box" is the nation's most-hated piece of nonsensical business jargon. So next time you're engaged in a spot of blue-sky thinking, remember that the waiter thinks you're a prat.

Big boys of retail beaten to the punch

In the race to win the reputation for good value, John Lewis and Tesco take no prisoners, so it's no surprise that both announced they'd be offering the VAT saving early – passing it on from Friday, ahead of the cut itself which takes effect from Monday. Both, however, were beaten to it. Barker and Stonehouse, the furniture retailer, announced it had already cut prices by the full 2.5 per cent yesterday. Independent retailers can still teach the big boys a thing or two, it seems.