Limited liability partnerships will be up and running by 2001 despite concerns of the accountancy profession that have yet to be addressed, DTI minister Kim Howells said last week. Howells said the Bill would help partnerships attract partners who had been fearful of taking stakes because it would leave them with unlimited liability. But DTI officials said several issues, including the status of partners under employment law, had to be finalised. The English ICA raised these concerns as serious flaws in the draft Bill issued in the summer. 'If they are still looking at this then it is fair enough given the speed with which the Bill has been introduced. If they are looking to get it through parliament and up and running by 2001, it shows that it has been fast-tracked,' deputy president Graham Ward said. The Bill will only include details on the setting up of an LLP while regulatory issues will be introduced after the Bill has been given royal assent. But a DTI official hinted that the issue of employment status may swing in the profession's favour. 'It is not the intention that they (partners) should be treated as employees for employment law purposes,' she said. Howells added, however, that in return for LLP status firms would be expected to offer greater disclosure in the form of filed audited annual accounts. 'If you have limited liability you have disclosure so that someone who deals with the firm can make an informed decision,' he said. Firms with an annual turnover of less than £350,000 will be able to file unaudited accounts. This exemption would also increase once the review of small company exemption is finalised. The Inland Revenue has assured the DTI that it will publish a tax bulletin before the regulation goes before parliament.
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