VAT men take a cut off hairdressers' saloons

City Diary

The beady-eyed VAT inspectors from Customs & Excise have claimed another victim - hairdressers. Inspectors visited Simon Harris Hair Design of London recently and decided that the self-employed stylists working there should be included in the business's overall VAT bill.

According to Bob Harrison, a VAT consultant with accountants Moores Rowland: "Many salons use self-employed stylists and charge them for use of a chair, a junior and other facilities such as hairdryers and shampoos. This has allowed them to remain below the VAT registered limit - until now!"

Mr Harrison says that Customs has fought a long war with hairdressers over this thorny issue. Any hairdresser who appears to have a substantial business and is not VAT registered could now face enquiries by inspectors and possible penalties.

The Customs men have even formed six teams to target "the shadow economy" which will include offending crimping parlours.

I wonder where the inspectors get their own hair cut?

A 19-year-old student studying surveying at Northumbria University recently received a letter from Barclays Bank informing him that he was pounds 40,279,560 overdrawn.

I've heard of student loans but this is ridiculous. A shocked David Close of County Durham read on: "This is in excess of your agreed limit. Please arrange to pay in within 10 days to bring the account into order and refrain from issuing further cheques in the meantime."

David earns pounds 30 a week from part-time work. What could save him now? A debt for equity swap? Floating on AIM?

On contacting Barclays, David was given a fulsome apology. His overdraft was in fact pounds 209. Someone had typed in an account number where the balance should have been. If only Eurotunnel's debts were so easy to solve.

Just two years after joining Nomura as co-head of equities, Robert Mapstone has "decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere." There are mutterings in City wine bars that his departure was not entirely unexpected.

Mr Mapstone joined from NatWest Markets in 1994 and worked alongside Basil Postan. Mr Postan then left to join Credit Lyonnais Laing at the beginning of 1995.

The Japanese securities giant said yesterday that it did not know of Mr Mapstone's plans, and the man himself was unavailable for comment. His co-head, Takashi Tsutsui, takes over as sole head of equities at Nomura.

At the same time Simon Fry, head of Nomura debt markets, "has been invited to assist in the co-ordination and strategic development of the Equity business," says the company.

Mr Fry joined Nomura from CS First Boston two years ago to build up the former's asset trading team. A year later he was promoted to head up debt trading. Now, another year down the line, he's sorting out the equities side.

All the rapidly ascending Mr Fry needs to do now is a spot of investment banking and the chief executive's private banqueting suite is his. Or so those pundits in the wine bars are saying ....

You've had the Baby Boomers - the post-war generation that became hippies in the Sixties and are now greying fast. In the next Millennium they will transform into the Papy Boomers.

From 2005 European economies will be hit hard by a bulge of former Baby Boomers reaching retirement. They have had so few children that the "dependence ratio", which measures the number of workers paying for every pensioner, will drop from 4 in 1990, to 2 by about 2025. French derivatives planners have dubbed this the "Papy-boom". If current trends continue, at some point everyone will be retired. The French haven't come up with a name for that yet. How about "Bournemouth-boom"?

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