SPAD means 'signals passed at danger'. If there is sun or glare, the driver does not see the signal properly, so he cannot tell whether it is green, yellow, double yellow or red. I hope he errs on the safe side in future and stops. TOC means 'train operating companies'. The 25-odd companies ought to merge by April 2001 into a maximum of four: South East, South West, North East and North West. TAC means 'train access charges'. The new charges from April 2001 should be lower. They should have been based from April 2001 on operating costs, historical cost depreciation and a 5% return on factual asset base. While Railtrack's profits have been too high, the TOCs' profits have been too low. MEAV means 'modern equivalent asset values'. Current cost accounting is a misleading system. In any one year, the maximum replacement of assets would probably be only 1/30th of the asset base rather than 100% of the asset base. RAB means 'regulatory asset base'. This is to work out what Railtrack's reasonable return on capital employed should be to compensate shareholders fairly for their investment. There are so many variations in percentage uplift on market capitalisation it may be best to drop this method. A net profit before tax falling between 5% and 10% of turnover would compare favourably with historical net profits in the motor industry. ATP means 'automatic train protection'. Computer software failure in signalling systems was blamed for the delay in completion of the Jubilee line extension. We shouldn't rely unduly on ATP. I don't believe fines are the real answer to train delays, poor maintenance of signals and tracks, bad management, blaming one another, etc. I have studied the causes of train delays. During the six months ended 30 September 1997, they were as follows: in 2,500,000 loaded train movements, there were 301,974 delays (12%) of 3 minutes or more; 36,726 (1.5%) due to maintenance and renewal causes; 265,248 (10.5%) due to other causes, signalman being late for work, etc. The total number of minutes delay was 9,708,349 (3.88 minutes per train movement) during the six months; 2,547,966 delays were due to maintenance and renewal causes (1.02 minutes per train movement); delays due to other causes were 7,160,383 (2.86 minutes per train movement). While there were sub-divisions of the former types of cause, such as track and structures, power supply, control system and acts of God/vandalism, there were no sub-divisions for other causes. Statistics for other causes should be developed into specific sub-division data rather than lumping it all under other causes. Only then can we attempt to improve the rail industry as a whole. Nagin Khajuria, London, N12 Antiquated work ethic It is with a wry smile that I read Peter Williams' article, 'Money doesn't buy a good life' (7 October). I am among the latest crop of newly qualifieds and would relish the opportunity to enjoy a rewarding and remunerative career. However, I am not prepared to miss my children growing up and will continue to search for the job that allows me to go home between 3.30 and 4.00pm. This doesn't mean I'd give less than 100% to the job. On the contrary, I am very hard-working. I recently attended a careers forum with many influential employers and was astounded by the response I received. All, without exception, were interested in me until I mentioned I was looking to work slightly less than full-time hours. The change was dramatic, ranging from complete dismissal to 'we'll keep your CV on file'. As we move into the new millennium, I would hope to see the change of attitude Peter Williams alludes to; that is, businesses being aware of the personal price tag accountants pay, but my own experience suggests that we are firmly fixed in a 19th century ethos. Patricia R Roseblade, Leicester Making sense of nonsense The Inland Revenue's 'process now, check later' system allows complete nonsense to be processed. A client completed his own self-assessment return and, as well as correct entries, it included the following: - Income from employment for 16/02/98 to 13/03/98 - Income from employment for 16/03/98 to 05/04/98 - Self-employment income for 01/10/97 to 12/02/98 - No overlap relief brought forward or used The Revenue computer managed to include all of these in 1998/99, even though they either related to a different tax year or were incorrect. My client was faced with a tax bill of £1,500 when it should have been £30 and was advised by the Revenue to see his accountant to get the return corrected. Megan Jones ACA Oswestry, Shropshire That can't be right, can it? Jim Greenwood comments (Letters, 21 October) that the Commissioner's decision in 'Wing Hung Lai v Bale' cannot be final, as his accountant previously claimed, because an appeal would lie on a question of law. That appears to be incorrect. The statutory provision for appeals from the Commissioners is contained in TMA 1970 s56B, authorising regulations to govern the stating of a case by the Commissioners, and for an appeal to lie on a question of law. Until those regulations are brought into play, the other sections which mention appeals (s56, for example) cannot be applicable since they all refer to the regulations. However, s19A's sub-section 11 states: 'The determination of the Commissioners of an appeal ... shall be final ... notwithstanding any provision having effect by virtue of section 56(B) of the Act.' Since the use of the regulations, insofar as they cover appeals that go further than the Commissioners, has been negated by s19A(11), the decision is final and conclusive in that case. Technically, of course, it is not binding on any other panel of Commissioners. Mike Truman, LLB FCA FTII MSFA When all the 'goodies' in the world won't help Accountancy Age reported that the chancellor is hinting at increased capital allowances for investment. This follows his introduction of an initial 50%, and a subsequent 40%, first-year capital allowance. A recent thesis for Kingston University shows that accelerated capital allowances may accelerate company growth, but will do nothing to increase the long-term growth of the company. The model used illustrated that the best thing a government can do to promote business growth is to control inflation: and the next is to lower corporate taxation. Roughly a 25% increase in first-year capital allowance (from 25%-50%) is as effective in promoting growth as a 3% reduction in corporation tax, or a 1% reduction in inflation. If the right infrastructure exists, business growth will occur, with or without enhanced capital allowances. Without the right infrastructure, extra 'goodies' will not change the underlying logic of continuous investment. PJ Chadwick, Oldham All letters should be sent to: The Editor, Accountancy Age, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London W1A 2HG Tel: 0171 316 9236 Fax: 0171 316 9250 Or e-mail us on: [email protected] Accountancy Age reserves the right to edit letters for space or clarity. Please include your title, company name and a daytime phone number.
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