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Competing with dodgy accountants

I was speaking to one of my clients recently, a one-man consultancy business in the contruction industry.  He told me that when he speaks to colleagues, they take a much more aggressive attitude to their tax affairs - in fact so aggressive that I would call it illegal.  The implication was that my client was "a bit soft" for not bending/breaking the rules and claiming for expenditure such as suits, and non-business expenditure that they might be able to get away with.  It also seems apparent that their accountants are either complicit or turn a blind eye to this activity.

Has anyone else come across dodgy competition?  Personally, it seems a no-brainer to me that I would stop acting for any client who I thought was involved in tax evasion and reporting obligations would also be met.  But I'm wondering if there is quite a booming trade for accountants who draw the line in a slightly different place to me?


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29th Sep 2011 09:25

Only once

And I only came across this one because HMRC investigated him and thence all his clients. He had been submitting ficticious returns or not submitting them at all. I got one of his clients (the son of a client of mine) on the rebound and it was a mess. Led to the son's bankruptcy.

I don't worry what potentially dodgy accountants 'might' be doing- life's too short! 

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29th Sep 2011 09:28

Do they know it was claimed for?

There's a difference between what someone puts through their books and what ends up on the tax return.  I'd have thought any half decent accountant would either transfer the non-allowables to drawings or add them back in the tax computation.  How does the client know that they havn't done this?

Clients can indeed get their suits etc paid for by their business, i.e. in their mind that means out of the business bank account, but they won't necessarily appreciate that they don't get tax relief on it.

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29th Sep 2011 09:32

We see it quite often @thisistibi

I'd like to think that 'what goes around, comes around' and one day the 'dodgy' accountants will have all their clients investigated.

It has actually happened not too far from us, in that a small accountant used to get CIS subbies LARGE refunds, but the accounts were a work of fiction. We picked quite a few clients up from them, ie. the ones that preferred to do things the right way and felt guilty about the deception.

I kept an example of the accounts prepared by them, for the entertainment value. They lasted about 2 yrs before HMRC put them out of business by investigating all their clients. However, this was quite blatant fiddling and others may not be so easy for HMRC to spot.

We have seen some 'dodgy' accounts/tax returns from the most unexpected quarters.

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By lja20
29th Sep 2011 09:35

three times now

it is unbelievable what some other 'accountants' have done with clients records, from basic inefficient procedures ie not looking at underlying detail and just inputting what the client has given them - to blatant over egging of expenses (this 'accountant' is now under investigation as are their clients).

Some of the records I have inherited do sometimes make me feel I am being over cautious and I have to tell myself that no - I am actually adopting the appropriate and 'correct' treatment. As said above - 'life is too short to worry about what others do'.   If clients do not agree/like my approach then they are free to go elsewhere, to date I have only lost one client and I ditched him because he wanted one of the accountants you describe above.  Above all, I know I can sleep at night!

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As Ken says, what goes in and what ends up on the return are two very different things.

I will always go through with a client what is/isn't allowable. Many accountants are of the "scared of their own shadow" variety simply dont talk to their clients but will silently pull it all out, post back the return and say nothing at all.........or alternatively to avoid conflict, pull it without telling the client if they think they will make a fuss.


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29th Sep 2011 10:21


I get emails from new clients who say that colleagues claim more expenses. I explain that the expenses they are claiming are illegal and could cause an investigation and penalties and they accept the situation.

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By Tosie
29th Sep 2011 10:39

I have a ltd company client who works with another one man band ltd company.

They work for the same contractor on the same sites my client pays a substantial amount of tax the other guy has never paid tax (or so he says).

My client has no desire to join the tax free party and says about his associate "he is Mad they will catch up"

The moral of this story is that dodgy accountants attract dodgy clients most clients want to pay as little tax as possible without breaking the law.

I do not fear dodgy accountants they can keep their clients and I keep mine.

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29th Sep 2011 11:11

It's a matter of trust


I notice that your client is in the construction industry. My experience of this sector is that they typically have a different attitude to HMRC compared to other sectors and you may need a strategy for them.

I am updating a report at the moment that will include Plumbers being arrested, people getting locked up, tax agents being graded and an explanation that accountants cannot tip off clients for Money Laundering reports.

It could be that the accountant is reporting his clients and they will all be investigated. Or, it could be that the other accountant will be graded by the Revenue as high risk and draw all his clients in to a tax investigation.

This is a matter of trust. Your client needs to trust you more than his mates and you can earn this by educating the client why they cannot claim the items he mentioned. You could produce a report, video or blog about it.

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing and co-founder of Crunchers fixed fee franchise


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By honesty
29th Sep 2011 11:16

"he is Mad they will catch up"

Especially if he is going around boasting about it. Only a matter of time before someone reports this. You would think they would have  the sense at least to keep quiet.

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Pinch of salt ...

I often here the bleating - 'Oh such and such's accountant says this and my mate claims for that' but a lot of it is just pub chat. Limited Co contractors are the worst ... like school kids comparing bruises!

Having said all of that, I think some accountants are a bit shy at telling clients what can be claimed and just accepting what the client puts in each year. How many I wonder are maximising use of home allowances via a simple licence agreement? I am always amazed how many new clients haven't claimed for spectacles and eye tests despite the Display screen rules have been us for 2 decades now.And what about the flat rate expenses available in the standard expenses dispensation? The list of small things is quite long and does mount up over time.

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Is it common practice in the construction industry...

... to wear a suit?

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29th Sep 2011 12:31


George Attazder wrote:

... to wear a suit?

Yes, absolutely.  Not everybody in the construction industry does manual labour?!

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29th Sep 2011 12:36

Accounts preparation by phone

Picked up a limited company client a few years ago where the previous accountant had just asked the directors "what was your sales figure" "how much did you owe suppliers" etc, etc.

It must have been a very long list of questions, as none of the figures in the accounts appeared derived in any way from the paperwork.

I never even got (my) first year done before the client dissappeared again, no doubt fedup by my requests for bank statements etc.

Fortunately I had got £500 up front, which covered most of the time I had wasted.

This from an FCCA firm in the east midlands.

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Wish I was an FCCA .....

could save so much time!

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29th Sep 2011 13:43

claiming for spectacles

Run that one by me again?

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VDU users ....

are entitled to employer funded eye tests under the 1992 Display screen legislation and if they require spectacles for VDU use then the employer may reimburse also.

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Head above the parapet

Steve, are you referring to special corrective spectacles for VDU use (for which most employees would probably not qualify)?

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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:38

there is good and bad in every profession

In every profession , you will find good people and 'dodgy' people. 



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29th Sep 2011 16:28


Are you trying to rub us up the wrong way?

Are you saying qualified accountants are never dodgy, or make mistakes? If so, you are wrong!

It wouldn't be self assessment if they couldn't do it themselves? You would have to call it something else.


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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:42

dodgy or not?

I feel that a qualified accountant is may be less likely to be "dodgy" as they study law modules and ethics so understand the rules better. However, that is only my opinion :D


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29th Sep 2011 17:43

"chances of a qualified accountant being dodgy are very small"?

I have about 200 clients and none of them have ever been investigated.

How much experience do you have of investigations?

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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:47

as i said we are all entitled to our own opinion 

You may disagree with what I say but we are all entitled to our own opinion. :D




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29th Sep 2011 17:48


I do disagree with some of what you say.

Qualified accountants are not always struck off the register for 'naughty' deedsALL accountants risk their livelihood by doing 'naughty' deedsQualifications do not guarantee the accountant is ethical, or even knowledgeable about the tasks he/she is performing

It sounds as if you have had, or are having, some bad experiences with HMRC. Would you care to elaborate?

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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:45

we are all entitled to our opinion

everybody has their own opinion. Im not saying Im right,  You may be right. lol


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By Old Greying Accountant
30th Sep 2011 09:19

I don't think anyone picked this up specifically...

akramco wrote:



... but it is cloud cuckoo land!

I would hazard no accountant, qualified or otherwise would or should make that statement, certainly not for a fee of a few hundred pounds! If I wanted to do that I would have become a tax inspector!


Also, as has been said on other threads, as a qualified you are more likely to get struck off for non payment of subcriptions than dodgy accounting!



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30th Sep 2011 09:46

@OGA, also these comments ....

akramco wrote:



These parts of akramco's suggestions were mind boggling. Would we have enough Qualifieds to cope???

We all know the result when there is a lot of demand, and not much supply! Better tell the taxpayers to get their cheque books out :)

One more query ... akramco - wouldn't it be even better if the tax returns could only be completed by CTA qualified accountants?

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29th Sep 2011 18:03


Sorry ... but  I disagree with virtually everything you say.

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29th Sep 2011 18:32

To be fair you make some good points

but I don't think things will go the way you want.

Before self assessment and when there was compulsory audits qualified accountants charged ridiculously high fees.

Making it compulsory to use a qualified accountant will increase the likelihood that accounts and tax returns were correct.

The majority of qualified accountants will do a good job but there is a small minority who don't.

The majority of unqualified accountants will do a good job but there is a significant minority who don't.

Unless a tax return is very simple if a taxpayer prepares their own tax return they will make mistakes.

I don't think the government or HMRC want the trade off of better accounts and tax returns against the extra costs involved.


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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:56

Hmm .. You are right but what do you class as unqualified? I'm talking about accountants who aren't part of or regulated by any accountancy body as unqualified .... I feel small businesses should at least get their accounts done from firms regulated by AAT/ACPA/IFA ??? or even by HMRC for money laundering purposes. A lot of small accountants aren't regulated by any professional body

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@ akramco

[Mod - content removed. Off topic.]


Firstly, what you are suggesting constitutes restraint of trade and would be illegal under eurpean law. Only very specific trades and professions are protected, and acountancy isn't and never will be one of them.

Secondly you make some sweeping and inaccurate assumtions. I am aware of numerous cases of accountants being prosecuted for various offences, and only one of them was unqualified. Passing a few exams and getting a bit of paper doesnt mean you are honest - it just means you passed some exams.

I am qualified, probably more qualified and for a lot longer than you, and i wouldn't dream of calling QBE's. There are many excellent QBE's who can put most qualifieds to shame. Next you will be suggesting that QBE's shouldnt post on AWeb too.

In practice the average QBE actually has to be better that the qualified next door. The qualified can "hide" behind a few letters, whereas the QBE has to earn and keep a reputation to attract business.

By suggesting that only qualifieds should be allowed to prepare returns, and, that all businesses must employ a qualified, you are actually suggesting the creation of a monopoly. Did you know that you are actually suggesting somehing that is illegal?  How does promoting an illegal arrangement square with your claims to be "superior" and more law abiding than QBE's?  On that evidence the opposite seems to apply.

You do seem to have an anger management problem - perhaps you've been losing clients to the local QBE's ?






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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:49

QBE'S regulated by HMRC

Qbe's who are regulated by HMRC would be "professional" in my opinion. :D 

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And what difference does regulation by a professional body make?   NONE.


QBEs are regulated for money laundering regulation, often by HMRC.


As a matter of interest, what "qualifications" do the vast majority of tax inspectors hold and what independant professional body regultes them ?  



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By akramco
07th Jan 2012 11:53

dodgy or not?

qualified vs unqualified .... dodgy or not .... depends on the person ....


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29th Sep 2011 23:54

birds of a feather

I have spent many hours trying to square the fact that I want to do things properly but there are dodgy accountants out there prepared to bend the rules (polite) and mopping up all the clients. The fact is that there are dodgy accountants and dodgy taxpayers and they stick together. Fortunately there are decent accountants and decent taxpayers and they also stick together. Concentrate on giving good advice and become a trusted ear and you will attract nice people who begrudgingly pay over the correct amount of tax. Be yourself!

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30th Sep 2011 05:01

You admit you have little experience


“BUT there is a lot of "unqualified accountants/ tax advisers" out there doing things the wrong way who are getting away with it, whether you want to believe it or not!”

There’s “a lot” of practically anything you want to mention. I’m sure there’s “a lot” of drivers who have passed their driving test who are bad drivers but that’s no reason to have a campaign against drivers. I’m sure there’s “a lot” of qualified accountants doing poor work.

“They never reach the courts like qualified's do because most of them don't work the same way we do ---(we work by officially acting as agents to our clients).

In most cases that Iv'e come across, Unqualified's just provide a service "to help the client with their tax return/ vat return etc" , so the client pays them a fees for helping them fill in the tax return but they aren't officially an agent of the client and aren't regulated by a professional body so aren't required to verify the work they carry out from any body.

Basically with most unqualified's the work they carry out is as if the client did it themselves so if anything goes wrong its the clients problem not their problem.”

I think the above shows that you have very little knowledge of what actually goes on. There are many unqualified accountants that are registered agents with HMRC. I have not come across many unqualified accountants who do what you say.

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30th Sep 2011 08:55

Not about qualifieds vs unqualifieds

I suppose it's understandable that so many replies to my post have discussed the qualified/unqualified subject, which is of course also being discussed through the HMRC agent's consultation.  However, on the matter of dodgy accountants, in my mind it is certainly not a qualified/unqualified matter.  As others have pointed out, being qualified doesn't make you ethically minded, it just means you can pass an exam.

@akramco - you ask why unqualifieds don't aspire to become qualifieds - I think that it totally invalid.  Personally I am qualified, but if I was in businesses and making good money then I wouldn't waste my time just to achieve qualified status unless I thought it would make a measurable difference to my business.  Which I'm not really sure it would.

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30th Sep 2011 09:32

Another thing to consider

In a practice of qualified accountants, there could also be unqualifed's and part qualifieds. 

Are the qualifieds really going to examine in detail every bit of work done by the unqualifieds, or part qualifieds?

In reality, people get trained up to a level of competency, and then they are (mostly) trusted to be competent.

Just because a client engages a qualified practice, it does not guarantee that their services will be provided by a qualified accountant.

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30th Sep 2011 10:03


[Mod - content removed. Off topic.]

Back to topic:

My opinion ... dodgy accountants attract dodgy clients. They will 'get away' with it for a while but I like to think it will catch up with them in the end.

In reality .... does this happen? Or can a clever dodgy accountant continue ad infinitum?

If HMRC do catch up with them ... what would be the consequences bearing in mind that some are dodgy through and through,and others are dodgy in less obvious, or more cunning, ways?

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By mark589
30th Sep 2011 10:04

Agree with Akramco

All being qualified proves is I can pass exams?

And being unqualified proves? what?

Like what has been said before if unqualified accountants are so wonderful why don't they get qualified?

oh yes they could if they wanted to but don't want to? or is it can't?


There's a reason people sit exams to prove they have the competency to act in the profession.

Solicitors don't have to put up with it?

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30th Sep 2011 10:07


It's all a question of degree -to change the old joke slightly, ask a dodgy accountant what 2 + 2 equals and he'll come back with "What do you want it to be?" Ask a competent accountant the same question and he'll respond, "4 or thereabouts - how accurate do you want it?"

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30th Sep 2011 10:14


Please be sure to refer back to the original post's question regarding your experiences with "dodgy" behaviour and how you dealt with / avoided it. If you wish to carry on discussion of the issue of qualified / unqualified accountants, you're welcome to do so but it would be best to create a thread specific to such discussion to keep topics clear.

As always, please remember to check your posts before submitting. Comments should be polite and further the discussion. If you see anything you feel is in violation of the community rules or feel you are being unfairly targeted, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks :-)

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30th Sep 2011 10:38


Are we discussing outright 'dodginess' are are we including incompetency in that incompetent accountants may appear to be dodgy. Could some problems be caused by accountants acting outside their area of competency?

Isn't there a big big difference between a qualified accountant preparing accounts/tax for a complex or large business, and the type of work needed by a small business or an employed high rate tax payer.

Its a bit like comparing a Roll Royce engineer with the local guy who services the Fiestas & the transit vans. There is no need for the Fiesta guy to be a qualified Rolls Royce engineer? If the Rolls Royce engineer wants to service Fiestas then the Fiesta owner may be really chuffed, but not if they are paying Rolls Royce type fees.

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By Monsoon
30th Sep 2011 10:41


ShirleyM wrote:

Isn't there a big big difference between a qualified accountant preparing accounts/tax for a complex or large business, and the type of work needed by a small business or an employed high rate tax payer.

Its a bit like comparing a Roll Royce engineer with the local guy who services the Fiestas & the transit vans. There is no need for the Fiesta guy to be a qualified Rolls Royce engineer? If the Rolls Royce engineer wants to service Fiestas then the Fiesta owner may be really chuffed, but not if they are paying Rolls Royce type fees.

I couldn't agree more.


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30th Sep 2011 10:42

I wonder where I sit...

in all this. Qualified AAT but left them because I felt they concentrated too much on 'costings' subjects and not enough on taxation issues. So not 'registered' with any accounting body.

I'm registered with HMRC and all my clients are clients and listed on my HMRC agent page (no dodgy advice on the side stuff). I have PI cover and am considered pendantic by some of my clients and all of my mates- an accolade that all accountants should aspire to.

I do worry that I might not be up to date on everything and don't have the luxury of an office full of colleagues to refer to (this forum is the nearest I get to that) I have to find my own clients and don't offer nicely bound together accounts, a year out of date, at £900 per sole trader. I get business because sole traders don't need or want that level of 'service'. I have never lost a client to a rival. 

I  do, however answer the phone at all times and visit clients on week-ends and bank holidays.



Don't think so.....

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30th Sep 2011 10:50


This thread has been temporarily closed pending moderation of off topic comments.

Update: Thread is now live again. Apologies for the inconvenience. Please be sure to note my previous comment regarding off-topic posting.

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30th Sep 2011 13:08

vanity letters

I'm confused now.

How can the fact that someone has letters after their name simply because they can put up with five years or ten years of accountancy mean that they are in anyway better than someone who doesnt bother with the affectation of buying a few capital letters to go after their name?

There is no guarantee that anyone with or without letters is either good or bad at what they do. The danger is that there are those who stop learning once they have the letters and rely on the fact the letters are there on the business card and they live off the credibility of others that hold the same letters.

I was always told that the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall, maybe that also applies to the good and bad advisors?

Golden rule - GET ANY ADVICE IN WRITING, it also a defence against penalties charged by HMRC. (Sorry about the capitals...)

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30th Sep 2011 14:06

Qualified accountants not dodgy?

I love reading the disciplinary and regulatory summary reports in Accountancy Magazine.  It's usually quite entertaining.........




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01st Oct 2011 00:46

dodgy accountant.

certainly suffered one for many years.

big money, had all family wrapped around. but he died a worried man.

unfortunately this event happened just before his wrap was about to be blown.


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