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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Former BBC presenter loses legal battle over tax bill

February 15 2018

A former BBC presenter is facing a tax bill that could reach more than £400,000 after losing a dispute with HM Revenue & Customs, a tribunal ruled.Christa Ackroyd, who presented BBC Look North for more than a decade, was in a legal battle with HMRC who claim she owes £419,151 in unpaid tax between 2008 and 2013.Ms Ackroyd, who contends the sum stands at approximately £207,000, was employed under two fixed term contracts between the BBC and her personal service company, Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd (CAM).HMRC considered her an employee of CAM and that therefore the company was liable to pay income tax and national insurance, while Ms Ackroyd argued she was a self-employed contractor.The tribunal said Ms Ackroyd’s was one of a “number of other appeals involving television presenters and personal service companies”.It stressed that HMRC had “never suggested” Ms Ackroyd was a tax cheat or had acted “in any way dishonestly”.In its ruling for HMRC, which the tribunal acknowledged was a “value judgment”, it said: “We do not criticise Ms Ackroyd for not realising that the IR35 legislation was engaged.“She took professional advice in relation to the contractual arrangements with the BBC and she was encouraged by the BBC to contract through a personal service company.”A BBC spokesman said the use of personal service companies was “entirely legitimate and common practise across the industry”.He said: “The BBC was not party to this case, and as was standard industry practice at the time the individual was engaged as a freelancer in 2001 and paid via their existing company.“Until last year it was for individuals with service companies rather than those engaging them to determine their status for tax purposes.“The use of personal service companies is entirely legitimate and common practice across the industry as it provides flexibility for both individuals and organisations.“An independent review conducted in 2012 found that there was no evidence that the BBC had attempted to avoid income tax or NIC by contracting in this way.”An HMRC spokesperson said: “Employment status is never a matter of choice; it is always dictated by the facts and when the wrong tax is being paid we put things right.”Both parties must agree the amount to be repaid or notify the tribunal within 42 days of the need for a further ruling.

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


‘Betrayed’: 500 Dundee HMRC staff told no en masse jobs transfer to DWP

April 16 2018

The UK Government has been accused of a "devastating betrayal" after nearly 500 HMRC staff in Dundee were told the planned transfer of their jobs to the Department of Work and Pensions has been shelved. Workers at Sidlaw House in Dundee Technology Park had been told they would move over to the DWP to undertake Universal Credit work over the next three years. But stunned staff have now been told that no positions can be guaranteed with the DWP once the HMRC's Tax Credits work in Dundee ends in three years' time. Furious Dundee West MP Chris Law branded the decision "disgraceful" after he had been given written assurances staff would be transferred. He said: "This is a devastating betrayal for the highly-skilled staff at Sidlaw House, many of whom have dedicated years of loyal service to HMRC, and I share their anger and disappointment in this Tory U-Turn following our campaign in 2015 that had secured work at the offices. "The UK Government gave me written assurances then that the staff at Sidlaw House would definitely be transferred to Universal Credit Services in the DWP, assurances that they have now ripped up. "This disgraceful decision by the Tories proves once again that they are more interested in needless cuts than protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the people of Dundee, and cannot be trusted to lead our city or our country." Mr Law said he would be pushing Ministers to reverse the decision and protect the 479 jobs beyond 2021 as was originally promised. "The staff at Sidlaw House deserve to be given a proper explanation for their outrageous treatment," he added. David Lardner from the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said: "The staff had been promised work with the DWP and that promise has been in place for a number of years. "It was announced that was no longer the case. "Staff are upset and they are worried. "We have staff who came over from Caledonian House where they went through the same thing and now have to go through the whole process again." Mr Lardner said the union was assessing the situation but "nothing is off the table", including potential industrial action. He said it would work with the HMRC where possible to find other positions for staff elsewhere in the organisation. However, the nearest HMRC offices to Dundee will be in Edinburgh, meaning lengthy commutes or relocation. In an email to staff Mr Lardner added: "The PCS position is straightforward - we believe that there is ample scope within HMRC or elsewhere in the civil service to have high quality work undertaken by the skilled workforce in Dundee, and we will be asking elected representatives to support our campaign in this regard in Holyrood and Westminster."   An HMRC spokesman said: "In 2016, we announced that tax credits customer services advisers would be transferring to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to "DWP will now be able to deliver as planned without the level of additional resource it originally expected, and so the managed moves of HMRC staff to DWP will not be going ahead as planned. "We will be doing everything we can to keep their skills, knowledge and experience, either in HMRC or elsewhere in the civil service, as the tax credits work they do reduces in the years ahead."  


HMRC defends office closure decision

February 17 2014

HMRC has defended its decision to close 29 inquiry centres in Scotland including one in Dundee, saying demand for the service has fallen. A new flexible support service will from May better address the needs of customers seeking help with taxes, tax credits and child benefits, the organisation says. The office at Caledonia House, Greenmarket, has a staff of seven and they have been given the options of working in the new service, applying for voluntary exit or seeking another job within HMRC or another government department. HMRC employs more staff in other departments at Caledonia House. The Public and Commercial Services Union has warned that millions of pensioners, vulnerable workers and tax credit claimants will lose a vital service and 1,300 jobs across the UK will be at risk. Dundee West MP Jim McGovern said he was appalled at HMRC’s decision as he believed the whole network was well used. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs disagreed and said research showed inquiry centres no longer meet the needs of customers. The centres are spread unevenly across the UK and many of the estimated 1.5 million customers who need extra help do not live near one and face extra travel costs. Only a very small minority of HMRC’s 40 million customers in the UK ever use one of the 281 inquiry centres, and demand has halved to fewer than two million in 2013. Some centres are now open just one day a week as a result of the sharp drop in demand and 11% of inquiry centre customers needed a face-to-face appointment. The new service will save customers around £17 million a year in lost time and travel costs, and will save taxpayers over £27m a year, HMRC said. HMRC said it is discussing the impact of the changes with inquiry centre staff and unions, and will do everything possible to redeploy personnel within HMRC, or help them to find another role in the civil service. It is committed toavoiding compulsory redundancies where possible, but will offer staff who don’t wish to be redeployed, or apply for a post in the new service, the opportunity of a voluntary exit.


Fears for hundreds of HMRC jobs in Dundee ahead of restructuring announcement

October 30 2015

Uncertainty hangs over hundreds of HM Revenue and Customs jobs in Dundee, according to union officials. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU) fears that around 130 jobs may be lost at the Caledonian House tax office, which is under threat of closure. Existing staff would be paid off or re-located to Edinburgh or Glasgow as part of a UK-wide restructuring process. As well as taking money and jobs away from Dundee, union officials say the move could lead to increased tax evasion locally. The Courier also understands that around 600 HMRC employees based at Sidlaw House will be given different roles in Dundee’s Department for Work and Pensions office by 2017. This move would coincide with the roll-out of universal credit, which will re-place the existing tax credits system. The city’s HMRC staff have been told that there will be an announcement on November 12 with further details on the changes. Hamish Drummond, Scotland East branch secretary for the PCSU said: “There have been indications that the plan for Scotland is to have two HMRC sites, one near Edinburgh and one near Glasgow. “As a trade union, we’re not accepting a closure as inevitable closing the office in Dundee will be bad for the city. “We’ve got 130 staff working here and it’s not clear what would happen to them yet. Some may retire, others may seek employment elsewhere or there may be an offer of alternative employment down in the central belt. “This would mean a chunk of money will be lost locally. It also means that people may feel they’re not being watched any more as there would be no tax office here. “The situation at Sidlaw House is different the staff there deal mainly with tax credits, rather than income tax. “They would remain in Dundee, but would have a different employer the DWP. We will be seeking the best possible terms and conditions for the transfer.” Mr Drummond added that the Fife HMRC office in Glenrothes is scheduled to close. Most of the 20 or so staff have already been offered alternative employment or taken voluntary redundancy, with no one “forced out”. An HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC has set out a provisional timetable for announcements in every country and region in the UK to be made in November, explaining how the overwhelming majority of our people will either move to a regional centre or one of a network of transitional sites, over the next decade. The changes are one of the building blocks of transforming HMRC into a smaller, more highly-skilled organisation, that provides better, more modern services and value for money for taxpayers.”

UK & World

Google agrees £130 million tax deal to pay money owed since 2005

January 23 2016

Internet giant Google has agreed a £130 million deal with the taxman to pay money it has owed for the last decade. The US online search firm said it had reached an agreement with HM Revenue and Customs covering taxes since 2005. The arrangement will also see it start to pay tax "based on revenue from UK-based advertisers, which reflects the size and scope of our UK business", it added. The move comes after years of criticism of Google and other multinational firms over their tax arrangement in the UK and across Europe. Meg Hillier, the chairwoman of the Common's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will call Google and HMRC figures before MPs to explain the deal, which she said showed HMRC "admitting it pulled in too little tax from Google for nine out of 10 years". A Google spokeswoman said: "We have agreed with HMRC a new approach for our UK taxes and will pay £130 million, covering taxes since 2005. "We will now pay tax based on revenue from UK-based advertisers, which reflects the size and scope of our UK business. "The way multinational companies are taxed has been debated for many years and the international tax system is changing as a result. This settlement reflects that shift and is in line with recent OECD guidance." The issue of how much UK tax multinational firms like Google, Amazon and Facebook pay in the UK has hit the headlines in recent years, with HMRC indicating back in October 2013 that it was looking into Google's accounts. In March's Budget Chancellor George Osborne announced the introduction in April of a so-called "Google tax" targeting firms that move their profits overseas. The "diverted profits tax" is designed to discourage large companies from taking earnings out of the UK to avoid tax. Mr Osborne also said he would close tax loopholes that enabled businesses to take account of foreign branches when reclaiming VAT on their overheads, with the new tax measures expected to raise £3.1 billion over the next five years. In September shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the Labour conference that if elected in 2020 the party would launch an "aggressive" drive to ensure multinational corporations pay "their fair share of taxes" as part of a bid to balance the nation's books fairly. An HMRC spokesman said on Friday night: "The successful conclusion of HMRC inquiries has secured a substantial result, which means that Google will pay the full tax due in law on profits that belong in the UK. Multinational companies must pay the tax that is due and we do not accept less." However Labour MP Mrs Hillier said the PAC would be examining the deal. The committee's previous chairwoman, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, was an outspoken critic of the firms' tax affairs and led tough questioning of companies. During PAC hearings, firms have been accused of "siphoning" off profits made in the UK to countries where they pay less tax. Mrs Hodge branded tax avoidance "immoral" and suggested that Google's tax activities were "evil". Mrs Hillier said on Friday night: "The news that Google is paying 10 years' back tax vindicates the Public Accounts Committee's vigorous pursuit of international companies that were running rings around tax officials. "We were shocked to learn of workarounds of the tax system that were considered normal behaviour by big corporations but which appalled the individual taxpayer. "HMRC now needs to assure taxpayers that it will keep up the pressure to tackle whatever the next emerging issue is in real time, rather than years later. It is effectively admitting it pulled in too little tax from Google for nine out of 10 years. "This is not a great success rate and the Public Accounts Committee will be calling in HMRC and Google to explain."


Dundee MP welcomes ditching of controversial Concentrix contract

November 16 2016

A Dundee MP has welcomed the UK Government's  move to axe a company accused of wrongly stopping tax credits. But Concentrix has received around £500,000 of taxpayers' cash to help with costs linked to the early termination of its agreement. Treasury minister Jane Ellison confirmed a HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) payment - which was brought in to cut fraud and error in the benefit system - is "some" of the American-owned firm's "exit costs from its subcontracts". She said: "As a result of the contract ending, around 250 Concentrix staff have transferred to HMRC following completion of appropriate checks and HMRC has put in place a programme of induction and training." Concerns raised by MPs included families having tax credits stopped after being accused of relationships with their own children and living with, rather than above, RS McColl - a chain of Scottish corner shops. Dundee West MP Chris Law, who has campaigned on the issue, said: he was "delighted" with the announcement. He added: "I would commend the staff at HMRC who had to take back 181,000 cases from Concentrix to resolve these as quickly as possible for customers."


Taxpayers contacted ahead of start of Scottish rate of income tax

November 30 2015

Potential Scottish taxpayers will be contacted in the coming weeks as part of preparations for the introduction of the Scottish rate of income tax. The letters are intended to confirm the accuracy of HMRC's records of taxpayers who live in Scotland and will pay the new rate in the 2016-17 tax year. They will be sent to around 2.6 million people. The Scottish rate of income tax, which will be announced by the Scottish Government on December 16 in its Budget, comes into effect on April 6 and will be paid by UK taxpayers who live in Scotland, regardless of where they work. Income tax will be reduced by 10p in the pound for Scottish taxpayers, but they will then have to pay a new Scottish rate which could be 10p, or more or less than 10p. Those paying the new rate will see their tax code prefixed by an "S" and their income tax will continue to be collected from pay and pensions in the same way as it is now. Edward Troup, tax assurance commissioner and second permanent secretary at HMRC, said: "HMRC is taking the next step towards implementing devolution of tax powers to the Scottish Government. "The new tax rate will apply to everyone who lives in Scotland. If we've got your address right, there's no need to do anything - the small number who need to change their address details can do so quickly and easily online at www.gov.uk."