Top of the league of big cheeses in the tax world, according to the latest issue of Tax Business, is Loughlin Hickey, the English head of global tax at KPMG, writes Maggie Urry.

He wins because he faces the biggest challenge in the industry – trying to restore the image not only of the “Big Four” accounting firms but the entire tax industry following the admission by KPMG’s US business that it sold “fraudulent” tax avoidance schemes to wealthy Americans. So far, 18 former KPMG people have been charged with criminal offences and the firm has agreed to pay $456m (£261m) to settle the issue. If Hickey rises to the challenge, he may keep a place in the league next year, unlike David Varney, who was in 10th place last year but has dropped out this time.

A year ago, Tax Business had “great expectations” of Varney after he was appointed chairman of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the combination of the old Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise departments. But according to Tax Business, Varney – who had a glittering business career in oil, gas and mobile phones before becoming a public servant – has failed to sort out the confusion over the combined body’s powers.

The damning conclusion is “Varney has been overtaken by some of his more junior colleagues”.


It was retail roundabouts at M&S on Tuesday. Profiting from the whirling were George Davies, who is staying; Steven Sharp, marketing man, who joins the board having said for months that he didn’t want the job; and two new non-executives. But thrown off in the spin was Fiona Holmes, head of children’s wear. Stuart Rose only told her on Monday night and she joins the growing list of M&S folk who’ve left their posts since Rose arrived.

On a brighter note, a beaming Lord Burns, the new deputy chairman who will take over from Paul Myners in the chair next July, turned up to see his chief executive’s moves. He was wearing an orange M&S tie and a reasonably well-fitting M&S suit. He says he just can’t stop himself shopping there since he signed up for the job. Well, Rose did give him a 20 per cent discount card.

Hammer and hand

One float worth watching out for at the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday will be the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths’ effort.

It will tow two working forges, heated to 1,200 degrees centigrade, through the streets, while blacksmiths – not farriers – make pokers, knives and toasting forks to auction on Ebay for charity. Six musicians will bash out such delights as Verdi’s Anvil Chorus and the Posthorn Gallop.

Christopher Jeal, clerk to the company, says it is the first time that the Blacksmiths have been involved for at least 250 years and unfortunately “my predecessor didn’t leave me any notes on how to do it”. His chief aim is not to start another Great Fire of London, since the last one burnt down the company’s Livery Hall. Although it was rebuilt, the company hit hard times in the late 18th century and had to give it up.

At No 27 in the parade, the Blacksmiths will be fairly near the front and should provide a welcome hotspot if the day is chilly.

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