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Issue:-  03/04 February 2009


FORM this week, anyone living or working in Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire or Cumbria can make their appointment to enrol for a National Identity Card at the Identity and Passport Service office in Liverpool city centre.

The office is currently being upgraded and will provide biometric enrolment facilities, allowing customers to register their fingerprints and thereby secure their identity, from 16 February 2010.

So far over 3,500 identity cards have been issued, and across the North West hundreds of people request an application pack every day. The cards cost £30, and are valid for 10 years. They can be used to prove age and identity, as well as being used instead of a passport for travel throughout Europe.

Home Office Minister responsible for identity cards Meg Hillier said:- “Identity cards are already being successfully used by thousands of people across the North West. Our facilities in Manchester have proven extremely popular, and we’re expecting strong demand in Liverpool. People are already finding their identity card useful on all sorts of occasions, from proving their age on a night out to travelling to Europe without the need for a passport.”

Please note:- Applicants can request an application pack and enrolment appointment for the Liverpool office by calling the Identity and Passport Service on:- 0300 330 0000. Further information is available on the ID Smart website.

The Liverpool enrolment office is situated at:- 101 Old Hall Street, Liverpool, and is open on an appointment-only basis. Appointments can be made by phone.

Latest survey finds deep anger over tax system among small firms

SMALL firms believe Britain’s tax system is deeply unfair and urgently needs to be simplified, new research has revealed.  A poll carried out by the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that more than 66% of SME owners believe the tax burden placed on them is unfair - and over 50% think the tax system favours big companies. 

The research has been compiled by canvassing SME owners through the FPB’s Tax and Budget Member Panel which serves as a dedicated, subject-specific opinion-taker.  An overwhelming 43% of respondents to the panel said ‘fairness’ should be the main priority for the tax system. The next popular priority was ‘simplicity’, which was supported by 1 in 5 smaller businesses, echoing widespread anger with a system which is among the most complex in the world.  Additionally, 13% said they want to see the tax system reformed to make Britain more competitive internationally.  And in more general terms, 45% of respondents said their tax burden was a ‘very serious’ issue for their firms.

Commenting on the findings, FPB spokesman Phil McCabe said:- “Our members believe that they are bearing an unfair tax burden because of the moderate sizes of their businesses.  The complexity of the British tax system is not only time-consuming and frustrating, it also puts small firms at an instant disadvantage. Big companies have the expertise and resources to understand the system and minimise their tax burden. For most of our members, hiring an outside tax consultant represents a significant cost few can afford, especially in the midst of a recession. Whichever party comes to power at the general election, we would like to see them lay the foundations of a bold new tax environment where small firms are rewarded, rather than unfairly penalised, for the huge contribution they make to the British economy.”

The Tax and Budget Member Panel also asked SME owners about the recent Pre-Budget Report (PRB). Respondents to the panel were distinctly underwhelmed by the measures announced by the Chancellor, with more than half saying that the PBR undermined both business confidence and future employment.  The increase in National Insurance Contributions proved deeply unpopular, with many FPB members expressing anger at further costs being added to employment.  Comments submitted to the panel by small business owners included:-  “Nothing is ever done to support and encourage small businesses. We are lumped in with large businesses and corporations which, for obvious reasons, are much better-placed to deal with increased taxation and employee legislation.…  the increase in National Insurance Contributions is another kick in the teeth for the employer. It is already very costly to employ staff and, in an environment when employers are under pressure to maintain or even reduce prices, this is just another cost to impact on the bottom line.  It is no surprise that companies are relocating offices overseas.”

Government Teenage ID scheme is failing UK businesses as kids buy false IDs

A national survey of over 1200 teenagers by Clarity Commerce has revealed that, in spite of the UK Government’s recent efforts to launch ID cards for teenagers to combat the rise in underage drinking, smoking and knife crime, it is failing as kids continue to flout the law by tricking retailers into selling them products that are illegal for them to buy.

The survey revealed 1 in 5 UK teenagers have bought knives whilst under the legal age, with 1 in 2 admitting to buying alcohol, and over 66% knowing a friend that has.  The canny youth of today are getting round the ID scheme by using fake and false ID cards with 1 in 5 kids buying them over the Internet and the majority using them to get into clubs and pubs, followed by shops to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and knives that they know they are too young to buy. Cinemas (12%) and local tattoo studios (6%) are also easy targets where kids are using their fake IDs to gain access.

However, busy retailers who are being duped by underage teenagers would appear to be fighting a losing battle as the ID cards that children are presenting look genuine with a street value of just £10, resulting in the retailers being fined if caught by trading standards.

If false IDs bought over the Internet isn’t bad enough, 45% of kids admit that they have asked a big sister, brother or friend to buy them alcohol with 78% of over 18s admitting they have leant their IDs to underage kids to get into a club, 27% to get into a pub and 19% borrowing them to get into a cinema. 20% have also leant their ID card to their underage friends or siblings so that they can buy alcohol with 16% admitting they’ve given them out to help them purchase cigarettes.

Michel de Beer who is responsible for the retail business across EMEA at Clarity Commerce said:- “Whilst the Government’s efforts are well meant, the survey results show that ID schemes have had their day as they do not offer enough support and protection to businesses. ID cards on their own just do not work, kids are getting around them as they know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to fooling businesses and the general adult population. I certainly know my kids surprise me every once in a while.”

In addition to the threat of fines for retailers who sell goods to teenagers using fake and false IDs in stores, parents would also appear to be either allowing or being duped or tricked by their children with 42% of teens admitting that they have used their parent’s credit card to illegally buy alcohol, cigarettes or adult CDs or video games on the internet.

The failure of ID schemes and threat of heavy fines has lead to UK retailers such as Tesco, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Morrisons to instruct staff to challenge customers who look like they're under 25 and haven't got appropriate ID to prove they're over 18, before selling them alcohol. However while this may offer protection from fines, it means retailers are losing revenue and sales from customers who are actually legally able to buy but are being turned away.

The survey results come at a time when the UK Government is attempting to combat teenage crime with its Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS) which was rolled out in London last week, however a major flaw in the scheme appears to be that only 4% of respondents to Clarity’s survey would sign up to the scheme – with 71% having never even heard of it.

Although the results highlight the serious issues faced by UK retailers, pubs and clubs, businesses in Holland are winning the battle with under age teenagers looking to purchase products illegally in store. A 2 camera system which is integrated with Clarity Commerce point of sales technology at the check-out, alarms when a product is scanned that requires a proof of age verification. At this point the check-out cameras link straight into a call centre where trained staff judge whether the youth who is actually purchasing the products is actually over the legal age requirement and will create a history log for reference purposes. Whilst this solution cannot guarantee the identification of fake or false IDs, it removes the stress and potential of fines for staff businesses, as they no longer have to make a decision on whether to serve the teenager and the prospect of losing their job or being fined.

Michel de Beer concluded:- “We have seen the positive impact that this solution has had in Holland and we believe that UK businesses - who are often criticised for illegally selling products to under age customers - would welcome the safety net that this solution offers. Whilst we understand that this solution cannot identify a fake ID, we’ve seen the benefits it delivers and are planning to introduce this technology in the UK during the first quarter of 2010 and sharing the responsibility we all have in society”

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