Big four accountancy firms donate £1.9m in services to political parties since 2009 [Guardian]
A huge accountancy firm would be expected to know the value of its time. So when the "big four" firms offer their expertise for free they in particular ought to know what it is costing them – and to have reckoned up the benefits. Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have given donations of "staff costs" worth £1.36m and consultancy work totalling almost £500,000 to political parties since May 2009, according to Electoral Commission records. Work was provided for all three main political parties. It adds up to nearly £1.9m of services donated by the big four since 2009. The firms also "lend" staff to the government: in the past year, 15 staff from top accountancy firms have been on secondment to the Treasury alone.
Mr. Romney’s Financial Black Hole [NYT]
Paying taxes forthrightly has long been a matter of civic pride for most American politicians, a demonstration of honesty and of a willingness to share in society’s burdens. Since the Watergate era, presidential candidates have released several years of tax returns, allowing voters to peer at their financial choices and discern their entanglements. Mitt Romney has upended that tradition this year. He has released only one complete tax return, for 2010, along with an unfinished estimate of his 2011 taxes. What information he did release provides a fuzzy glimpse at a concerted effort to park much of his wealth in overseas tax shelters, suggesting a widespread pattern of tax avoidance unlike that of any previous candidate.
Little-known U.S. board stokes hot pension debate [Reuters]
The feedback was swift and often scathing when a little-known public board signaled its intent to toughen the accounting rules governing state and local pension funds of millions of U.S. public employees, intensifying worries over a shortfall of billions of dollars. The plan by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) – which was approved on June 25 – drew praise from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and from investors looking for transparency in the $3.7 trillion municipal bond markets. But not so from the likes of Kevin Lillie, treasurer of the Geneva, Ohio area schools district, one of more than 700 letter writers, who asked: "How do you people come up with these things?" He was not alone in his incredulity.
'Working From Home' Without Slacking Off [WSJ]
Working from home used to be a welcome break from the stress and interruptions of the office. (And let's be honest: It also offered the flexibility of squeezing in some errands or a nap between conference calls.) These days, working from home is more like being in the office, with bosses developing new ways to make sure employees are on task. Some track projects and schedule meetings on shared calendars. Others require "virtual face time" via email, instant messaging or calls. And some, like Accurate Biometrics, monitor computer use of employees, both at home and in the office.