Business people: Warmest wishes sent to Belinda Dickson

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A SPEEDY recovery is this column’s wish for Belinda Dickson, AKA the “cashmere queen”. Hot on the heels of her shutting up of the Belinda Robertson luxury goods shop in Edinburgh last month, a restorative trip to the slopes ended in near disaster.

She was been struck by an errant skiier, sources have reported, and this week Dickson will undergo knee surgery to repair the ensuing damage.

We advise lots of rest – and, we hope, a cashmere throw draped insouciantly about the shoulders to keep cosy and stylish.

KPMG celebrates VAT’s 40th birthday in style

ACCOUNTANTS at “big four” firm KPMG were so excited that value-added tax (VAT) is marking its 40th anniversary today that they threw the sales levy a series of birthday parties last week to celebrate.

Chancellor Sir Anthony Barber described VAT as a “simple tax” when he introduced it in 1973 at 10 per cent – but how times have changed.

“The system is still full of quirks and wrinkles,” says Clare McColl, indirect tax partner at KPMG Scotland.

“If you buy a coffin it’s standard-rated, but hiring a hearse is VAT-free. Baked Alaska is zero-rated, ice-cream is standard-rated. Fruit pulp for cooking, pureed apple for example, is zero-rated but, if consumed as a smoothie, it is standard-rated.

“Books printed on paper are VAT-free, but an e-book is standard-rated. Flapjacks are zero-rated, cereal bars are standard-rated.”

Our spies tell us that the VAT birthday bashes – which were held in Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Reading – were well-attended, attracting 200 to 300 bean counters each time. Who said accountants don’t know how to have a good time?

BTO partner aims to give something back

SOCIAL housing lawyer Patrice Fabien turned her attention to homes of a different kind over the weekend when she travelled to Malawi to help Habitat for Humanity, a charity that builds homes for communities fighting against the HIV-Aids crisis.

The BTO Solicitors partner – who has spent more than 20 years advising charities in the housing sector – will support the charity as it tries to “eradicate housing poverty and homelessness”.

Fabien says: “Why am I doing this? To be brutally honest, it is the simplest way I have found to contribute something worthwhile and long-lasting, and something on the ground where it is most needed.

“It demonstrates that people, even if they are far away, do care, and care enough to make the trip and contribute what they can.”