ASIM sizes up Labour tax plans

Labour is courting the Association of Solicitor Investment Managers with its taxation proposals, reports Mick Kavanagh

Andrew Smith, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, has added law firms to the Labour Party's "cocktail offensive" by addressing members of the Association of Solicitor Investment Managers (ASIM) at their annual conference.

Smith, who was the keynote speaker to ASIM members at its AGM in Oxford last month, reiterated Labour's support for a simplified and non-punitive system of personal and corporate taxation.

The capital gains and inheritance tax area in particular is under review by the Labour Party, according to Smith. The aim is to make it easier for owner-managers to extract wealth from businesses when they retire.

He said: "As far as your professional interests are concerned, I trust all this will mean more work on productive and profitable investment, less on tax planning."

But Smith added that the Labour Party is likely to move away from the present self-regulatory approach of the financial services industry if elected to government.

"We are consulting on the desirability of a reformed system, which would remove self-regulation from centre stage, and make the Securities and Investment Board directly responsible for the regulation of the financial services industry," said Smith.

Commenting on Smith's speech, David Lough, chairman of ASIM, says he appreciates the Opposition's concerns about effective regulation of the financial marketplace.

However, he considers that the regulation of professional sectors in the financial market through their RPBs (recognised professional bodies) has been effective.

Lough stresses: "Our job is to get these practicalities across, so that the gains made through RPB status are not lost, and ensure that costs are not added by extra layers of regulation."

He says he appreciates Smith's point that professional resources should be switched away from tax planning to investment management. But Lough adds that Labour should not in general expect an overly warm response from solicitors to plans to reduce the market for tax planning services.

"It's rather like asking turkeys to vote in favour of Christmas," he says.

– Membership of ASIM has now reached "critical mass", according to its chairman David Lough, who is head of investment and financial services at Cripps Harries Hall. The association will now concentrate on consolidating membership and services rather than recruiting new members.

The association now has 25 full members, and 12 associate members, who are already offering financial services and investment management. ASIM also has 38 "subscriber" members who are "interested in starting investment management", according to Lough.

Andrew Curtis, of Somerset firm Clarke Willmott & Clarke, has been elected treasurer of ASIM, taking over financial responsibility from Lough. Lough has been re-elected for one further year as chairman of the association.

Richard Larner, of Birkett Westhorp & Long, has been appointed as director of ASIM with responsibility for training strategy.