PEOPLE & BUSINESS

A BELLY dancer who claimed tax relief because her belly was a depreciating asset won her case in a Cairo court recently. The point has yet to be tested in a British court, according to Mike Wesinski from the Manchester office of national accountancy group Hacker Young.

"It's an interesting technical issue," Mike tells me. "One could argue that a belly is plant and equipment used by the taxpayer to carry on business, but the question of valuation then arises.

"Like footballers' legs or darts players' wrists, putting a precise value on the asset presents a problem," he says.

Mike goes on ruthlessly: "Quite evidently a belly will deteriorate over time with continuous gyration, but apportioning the resultant depreciation to professional endeavour or personal use could be quite tricky."

Mike came across this vital test case from Urbach Hacker Young, the global network of accountancy firms of which Hacker Young is the UK member.

He says his tax and forensic accounting departments will be more than happy to undertake a test-case for performers or entertainers whose principal assets are depreciating due to "the ravages of time, over-usage, over- exposure or gravity."

WHAT'S the difference between the City and the Monster Raving Loony Party? Not much, according to Michael Hicks, who has just retired from Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull after after nine and a half years with the broker. Mr Hicks has also been Shadow Chancellor for Lord Sutch's party for the last decade.

"You can't retire from the Monster Raving Loony Party, though. Once you join, you're in for life," says Mr Hicks cheerfully.

The only difference between the party and people in the Square Mile is that "they dress differently - except on 'dress down' Fridays, when they look exactly the same," he adds.

Mr Hicks was director in charge of sales trading at SCST until 18 months ago, when he became liaison officer between the firm and the financial press.

"I don't particularly want to retire. Three brokers have asked me to join them, there are a couple of news agencies ... I might go into spread betting business," he muses.

"It all seems very unreal, this retiring, that is until pay day, when the money doesn't go into your account," he adds.

At least one more year in the City would be attractive, he reckons. "I went into the City straight from school 49 years ago. It would be nice to make it 50."

Yes, but how did he meet Lord Sutch, leader of the party, I ask? "It was at a raving event down in Devon about 10 years ago. I signed up straight away. His policies made a lot of sense.

"For instance, he's in favour of abolishing income tax. Income tax was brought in by William Pitt to pay for the Napoleonic wars. He thinks we should now declare the Napoleonic wars over."

So which was more enjoyable - the City or the party? "The party is a giggle all the time. But at least in the City you can make money. In the party I just keep buying rounds." Sounds like journalism ...

IF YOU are looking for a "get rich quick" book with a difference, God is My Broker could be the answer to all your prayers.

Subtitled "A Monk-Tycoon Reveals The 71/2 Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth", this self-help tome by Brother Ty, with Christopher Buckley and John Tierney, is published in the UK today.

Brother Ty, the nickname of a monk in the order of Saint Thaddeus in upstate New York, advises: "If God phones, take the call. How many times have you put God on hold?"

Brother Ty's advice, while based on religion, is also firmly rooted in the real world. For instance, he advises: "He who casts the first stone usually wins." He also believes: "God loves the poor, but that doesn't mean He wants you to fly coach."

When I tell you that fellow author Chris Buckley has also written a book called Thank You For Smoking, and that John Tierney is a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, you will probably twig that God is My Broker is a spoof.

It's also painfully close to reality. Apparently the US currently boasts a best-seller titled The Business Secrets of Jesus.

THE MAN who had to pick up the pieces when Peter Young was suspended from Morgan Grenfell Asset Management has got a new job.

Stuart Mitchell took over the running of Morgan Grenfell's European Growth Unit Trust and the European Capital Growth Fund in August 1996 shortly after it was revealed that Mr Young had not been following investment guidelines to the letter. Now Mr Mitchell has joined JO Hambro Investment Management as a director. He will be heading the specialist European equity unit from the middle of July.

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